MIAMI (CBS4) – Retailers have said this past holiday shopping season was better than the previous year thanks to an improvement in the economy.
But that means those after-holiday bills may be a lot worse than years’ past too.
The main question for a lot of consumers now is how can you pay them off as painlessly as possible?
“A few years ago a lot of people stopped using their credit cards. This season, boy, they spent like banshees,” said Howard Dworkin of Consolidated Credit.
Holiday spending was up about 10% from the past year to the tune of about $28 billion dollars, according to the national retail federation. And unless you paid cash, all those credit card bills are coming due.
“Unfortunately, now it’s time to pay the piper,” said Dworkin.
Vivian Elesppe of Doral is already trying to figure out how to pay off her growing holiday bills.
Making it even harder?
Like everyone else, her take home pay is less than last year because of higher payroll taxes.
“I have to re-adjust, pay a little less, find a way to budget better, cut costs somewhere,” said Elesppe.
So how do you cut costs and pay off the credit cards?
Coral Gables financial planner Lane Jones of Evensky & Katz said it may make sense to temporarily reduce savings plans and use the extra take-home pay to accelerate paying off high credit card debt.
“You can always evaluate what you’re deducting into your 401k..I always hate to tell people to cut back their savings but that’s one way to do it,” said Jones.
Need some more ideas?
Go through your bills and cut back on all unneeded expenses like dining out or all those premium cable channels you may never watch. Check your credit cards and pay off the highest interest rates first. Try to use cash rather than credit as much as possible.
Also, don’t get trapped into thinking you can just make the minimum payments.
“If you want to be in debt the rest of your life, just pay the recommended payments. If you do, you’ll never get out of debt. It could take you 10 to 15 to 20 years to get out of debt,” said Dworkin.
Home mortgages are near all-time low rates. If you can re-finance and save money on your monthly payments the extra cash can go towards paying off holiday bills.
Need one last idea?
Now’s a great time to start a so-called Christmas Club Savings account for this year’s holiday season.
Want some more budget strategies? Just check out 66 Ways to Save Money from the Federal Trade Commission.