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Holiday debt: More ways to beat your budget into shape

January 23, 2017 (Photo Credit: Getty Images Stock)
Everyone’s circumstances are different, but here are some ideas, big and small, to get you started thinking about ways
to wipe out that holiday debt:

First, take advantage of tax time. If you anticipate a refund, get your taxes done as soon as possible and use the refund to pay
off – or pay down – the debt. If you've consistently gotten big tax refunds every year, reduce the withholding from your
paycheck so you can put that extra money toward debt reduction. When it’s paid off, put the extra money in savings.

And use your raise wisely. Getting a bigger paycheck in January? Skip the instant gratification and put the extra cash toward debt.

Even if you're not getting a raise, you can move your existing debt around to help lower your bills. A balance transfer to another credit card with 0 percent interest or a low percent interest rate could save you money if you make the regular required payments and pay off the balance before the offer expires (and the rates go up).

Be careful of some caveats: There may be a fee for the balance transfer. And don’t put any other purchases on the card, because the payments you make will be applied first to the portion of the balance with the lowest interest rate. If you're keeping your credit card and it has a rewards program, put the rewards toward your balance. Now. 

Looking for spending fixes? Evaluate your food budget. Do some comparison shopping at the commissary, if you haven’t been there lately. That, along with more active food planning, might save a chunk: Use cheaper cuts of meat, don't be swayed by the kids’ urgent cries to stop at their favorite fast food eatery on the way home, and bring your lunch to work -- it could save you $50 or more a week.

Even drink planning can help out: Skip the $5 coffee and buy soda and water in bulk at the commissary instead of hitting the vending machine every day.

Can your get a better deal on your monthly bills? You won't know unless you ask: Review your phone, cable and utilities spending and see, for instance, whether your cable company can help you save money by getting rid of some features you don’t use, or could do without.

If those savings won't cut it, consider selling some unused clothes, toys or jewelry, a move that could generate a few bucks and clear some extra space. Still in the red? Consider temporary or part-time work, especially if there's a talent or hobby you
could parlay into some cash.

And remember to think outside the box -- literally, in some cases. Madeleine Greene, a financial counselor who has worked with the military community for years, said one client was storing Christmas decorations in a storage facility, for about $80 a month.

“I told her she could buy all new decorations each year for that,” Greene said, noting that the client was paying about $1,000 a year for that storage.
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