How to pay off your holiday debt in 30 days


Now that the holiday lights are fading and the joy of gift-giving has dimmed, there’s a good chance you’re facing a December credit card balance you just can’t quite pay off in full. The National Retail Federation predicted back in November that Americans would spend an average of $935.58 during the 2016 holiday shopping season. And, if you funded those purchases with a credit card and are realizing just now that you can only pay around half of them by your due date, well, then, yes, you’re looking at some interest and a potential ding to your credit score as the new year settles in. (You can see how your holiday credit card balances are affecting your credit by viewing two of your free credit scores, updated every 14 days, on

But don’t despair: That pesky balance doesn’t have to be a portent of debt to come in 2017. In fact, you may be able to pay all those purchases off by the end of your next billing cycle. Here are six ways that (taken separately or together, depending just how big your credit card balances are) can help you pay your holiday debt off in 30 days.

Read more: 49 ways to get your debt paid off quicker

1. Eat for less than $6 a day

The average American spent $7,023 on food in 2015, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That works out to about $585 a month or about $19 a day. Get that dollar amount down to $6 a day — which, yes, can be done (you can go here to see how) — and you’re looking at an extra $405 to put toward your debt at the end of the month. Go bigger balances to cover? Challenge yourself to cut that $6 in half, a tall order, we admit, but still potentially doable ”¦ so long as you’re willing to eat a lot of vegetables.

2. Pay with rewards

If you’ve been doing your spending all year on a rewards credit card, check your coffers — there may be points or cash back you can tap to pay down your balance. Sure, those rewards may seem better spent on a big vacation down the line, but if not cashing them in means carrying a balance into next month, you’ll really just be losing those rewards to interest anyway.

3. Give up your vices”¦

It’s that time of year, after all — and, boy, vices can be expensive. Take smoking, for instance, which can cost a person thousands of dollars each year. Per data crunches by, a website powered by Pfizer and the American Lung Association, someone who smokes one pack of cigarettes a day (at an average cost of $5.71 per pack) could save $2,084.15 a year by quitting. That means kicking the habit will free up $171 each month that can be put toward your credit card balances.

Read more: 10 tips to become debt-free as quickly as possible—¹

4. ”¦ or your guilty pleasures

We get it: Quitting a bad habit is easier said than done. And, even if you’ll ultimately achieve your goal, it could take some time for a new behavior to stick. But there’s probably a few line items in your budget that you can easily forego for a month (or two). Cancel weekly pizza night, for instance. Table that mani-pedi. Put date night on hold or turn off one-click ordering on your Smart TV to keep the movie rentals or video game purchases to a minimum for a while. Remember, credit card interest can start to add up quickly, so sacrificing a few wants (while still addressing your payment needs) can prove worthwhile in the end.

5. Sell some stuff

If you can’t find ways to cut big dollars from your budget, look into angles that’ll bring in more income. There are plenty of apps out there that help you sell your gently used goods to online shoppers in search of a deal. And, whether you just got some new designer duds to replace the olds ones in your closet or an ill-fitting sweater from your Uncle Bob (who never provides a gift receipt), we’d venture to guess you’ve got an item or two on hand worth selling post-December.

Read more: 39 ways to sell your old stuff for the most cash


6. Get a side gig

There are certainly plenty to come by these days. Share your ride, run some errands, pick up a freelance writing gig (or two). Sure, it means working an extra night or weekend this month, but it’ll help get that credit card debt off the books.

Of course, if you really went overboard this holiday shopping season or you had some big credit card balances before charging all those gifts, you may need a long-term strategy to get your debt under control. You can use this credit card payoff calculator to draft a customized payment plan.

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