Navigating the Christmas Hangover: A Practical Guide to Post-Holiday Finances
As the holiday decorations are packed away, and the festive cheer begins to settle, January brings with it a less joyful companion—the post-Christmas financial hangover. For many of us, the joy of giving to our loved ones can sometimes leave a lingering headache in the form of credit card bills.
I understand this struggle all too well, having grown up in Bunker Missouri, a community of caring and generous neighbors, but also one of the most poverty-stricken regions within the state. My father was a laborer in the lead industry, a farmer and a respected member of clergy. My mother was a banker, a homemaker and was very active in the church. I was fortunate, as they instilled in me a strong work ethic and a genuine care for others. These traits propelled me to my current role as the head of community and economic development at Midwest BankCentre.
My purpose is clear—to give more people a shot at winning, just as I was given. Throughout 2024 I’ll have a monthly column in The Labor Tribune, and my commitment is to delve into topics that hit close to home, addressing personal finance issues that can have a significant impact on each of our lives. We’ll explore strategies to break free from high-interest debt, discuss the ins and outs of budgeting for a down payment on a home, decode the mysteries of credit scores and even share tips on how to optimize your savings to meet your goals and guide you through the steps to build a credit score that opens doors rather than closes them.
I think most of us can recognize that the holiday season is a time of joy, but it can also lead to unexpected financial stress. It's easy to get carried away, especially when it comes to spoiling our kids and grandkids. But now, as the bills start rolling in, it's time to face the reality of post-holiday debt.
- Reflect and Assess: Before diving into the numbers, take a moment to reflect on your holiday spending. Did the joy of giving lead to overspending? Understanding where your money went is the first step to regaining control.
- Create a Realistic Repayment Plan: Assess your finances and create a practical repayment plan. Break down your debt into manageable chunks and set realistic goals. Remember, it's not about how quickly you pay it off, but about doing so in a way that won't leave you financially strapped.
- Prioritize High-Interest Debt: If you have multiple debts, focus on those with the highest interest rates first. Tackling these will save you money in the long run and provide a sense of accomplishment.
- Negotiate with Creditors: Don't be afraid to reach out to your creditors. Many are willing to work with you to establish a manageable repayment plan. Communication is key, and they may offer temporary relief or lower interest rates.
- Cut Unnecessary Expenses: Temporarily tighten your budget by cutting unnecessary expenses. It might mean cancelling a streaming service or more pasta nights at home. Small sacrifices can make a big difference in the long-run.
- Build a Buffer for Next Year: Learn from this experience. Consider setting aside a small amount each month throughout the year for holiday expenses. Many Banks, like ours, have a Christmas Club to help with budgeting. Having a budget in place can prevent the January financial hangover.
At Midwest BankCentre, we understand that life happens, and financial challenges can arise unexpectedly. That's why we offer the Life Happens® product suite, a comprehensive set of solutions designed for life's ups and downs. From payday alternative loans and emergency loans to life happens checking and secured credit cards, our services are crafted to provide practical assistance, especially during challenging times.
Our mission at Midwest BankCentre is to help our regional communities thrive and to empower individuals to live a financially secure life, giving more people a shot at winning. My colleagues and I appreciate the opportunity to earn your business and can be reached at 314.631.5500 or visit us online at www.midwestbankcentre.com.
Originally published in Labor Tribune's January issue of 2024 by Wes Burns, EVP of Community and Economic Development.