If you’re like millions of consumers who overstretched during the holiday purchase frenzy, you are starting to feel the pangs of buyer’s remorse as the credit card bills start to roll in. It’s that time of year where you either feel letdown or relief that the holiday hub-bub has passed and are faced with the cold hard financial facts of all that revelry.
Even if you were already planning a New Year’s Resolution for 2008 that sounded something like "get my financial house in order", if you put your holiday giving and bliss on plastic, you have a mountain to climb first.
According to the Boston Herald:
Consumers have a lot of card debt to deal with. Even before the 2007 holiday spending season began, Americans added more than $50 billion to their credit cards in the first 10 months of the year to reach a record total of $928.5 billion in October, according to the Federal Reserve. The additional spending in November and December undoubtedly pushed balances even higher.
That’s a lot of debt hangover.
Whether you already had debt or are just experiencing a sudden surge of panic because of recent spending, the fundamentals are the same.
First -- you need to admit the truth and own up to what is. Your credit cards didn’t go to the mall and start swiping themselves. You had a hand in it and now is the time to take responsibility for your actions and for making things right.
Second -- get back to the fundamentals of paying off credit card debt. That means stop using the plastic and start paying large amounts of principal on the highest interest rate card first. If you think paying the minimum payment constitutes "paying your bills" you are sorely mistaken. Take this little calculation from Somewhere Over the Debt:
To break it down, if you have a credit card balance of $1,000 and a 25% APR it would take you about 8 years to pay it off making the minimum payment of $30. Based on the current balance of $1,000.00, you would pay a total of $1,127.33 in interest.
Remember that bargain you charged on the 25% off sale just before Christmas? Well, by the time you pay off your card fully, it will be no bargain.
Negotiate for a lower interest rate. Lifehacker has great tips for lowering your card’s interest rate. If you can’t make that happen with your current lender, consider the route Leigh Ann took to get low interest loans and 0% balance credit cards.
Most importantly, don’t pay late. The fees can be crushing. I learned how phone calls really do make a difference earlier this year when I made this inadvertent error myself.
Third -- Get aggressive but pace yourself and be kind to yourself along the way. Most likely you didn’t build your credit card debt overnight. You need to be aggressive with your debt repayment and ruthless with your commitment to getting your finances in order. Paradoxically, while you’re doing this you need to cut yourself some slack. Find a compassionate middle ground with yourself where you are neither beating yourself up nor stuck in a "poor me" syndrome. Neither will serve your best life.
The most important thing to remember about this or any financial wake up call -- you want to make lasting changes in your relationship with money. Quick fixes without changing your mindset and behavior will only make you ripe for a re-run of the same scenario next year.
Paula Gregorowicz, owner of The Paula G. Company, works with women who feel angry & frustrated with having to compromise who they are in order to get what they want. To learn how to start getting more comfortable in your own skin in your life and business, download the Free 12 part eCourse at her blog http://www.coaching4lesbians.com.
To get the latest word on personal finances from an LGBT perspective and Paula's practical coach approach to the topic check out Queercents http://www.queercents.com.
Are you a small or solo business owner who wants to be comfortable in their own skin online via a website that is a true reflection of who you are and what your business is about? Paula's signature down to earth and "plain English" approach to website design and consulting can help. Visit http://www.paulagwebdesign.com to download the free successful website planner.
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