8 things to do if you’re broke after Christmas

Are you broke after Christmas? Looking for some personal finance advice if to get back on track after overspending? Click through for 8 money tips to deal with your Christmas credit card bill!

Are you basking in the post-holiday glow of perfect presents and good food? Wonderful!

Or are you trying to ignore texts from your bank about how your balance has dipped below $50?

If that’s you,
a) I’m sorry. That’s super stressful!
b) You’re not alone and this is fixable.

The average American spends $700 on Christmas presents while carrying a $6,000 credit card balance. Not particularly ideal! Let’s talk about how to true our wheels, right our proverbial ships, and get our bank accounts back to where we want them, regardless of how much we spent over the holidays.

8 things to do if you’re broke after Christmas

1. Have a gift-related conversation with the people in your life NOW

There are lots of reasons that the holidays push us over budget, gifts being chief among them. Now that the holiday dust has settled a bit and emotions aren’t running quiet as high, start a conversation about how you’d like gifts to go next year.

You could try:

  • Secret Santa within the extended family, so you’re only buying ONE gift for other adults
  • $20 price limit
  • Choosing a theme – gifts must be handmade or consumable or second-hand
  • Gifts for people under 16 only
  • Doing a big, lovely experience as a family rather than exchanging a bunch of small gifts
  • Use the ‘something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read’ rule

January is also a great time to talk to your family about gifts because everyone is getting their holiday-sized credit card bills and they’re probably more open than usual to talking about reducing expenses!

2. Do a No Grocery Challenge

Did you know that Americans toss $165 BILLION dollars of food each year? Food expenses are one of the easiest places to cut spending because – let’s be honest – most of us have plenty of food in the pantry and fridge. With a little creativity and planning, most of us could skip a week of grocery shopping and save ourselves somewhere between $50 – 200!

I do a No Grocery Challenge at least once a month to clear out our leftovers. You can read about how I do it here!

3. Find four fun, free things to do in your city + schedule them into your calendar

If you live in the northern hemisphere, the months following the holidays can be tough. They’re still cold and dark, but now we don’t have gifts, parties, and cookies to look forward to. People hermit and don’t want to do anything once they’re home from work.

Combat the winter mopes (and the desire to self-medicate with online shopping) by finding four fun, free or cheap things to do in your city and writing them on your calendar.

If you live in Minneapolis, I highly recommend

Related: Why you need to literally schedule fun into your life + how to do it

4. Take part in Bank Boost

This sounds like a shameless plug and it sort of is. But you should also know that in my last two enrollments, my Bank Boost students have collectively added $84,000+ to their bank accounts. In five weeks. WHAT??!!!

5. Set up auto-transfers so this won’t happen again next year

How much did you spend on the holidays this year? $500? $1000?

Divide that number by 12 and set up monthly auto transfers into your savings account so you won’t be caught out again. If you spent $500 on the holidays, you’d set up a monthly auto transfer of $41, $83 if you spent $1,000.

If you’re REALLY ambitious, house your savings account at a different bank so you’re less likely to tamper with it!

6. If you got any gifts you didn’t like return, exchange or sell them

Controversial opinion alert: I don’t think you’re required to hang on to gifts you don’t like and won’t use. Your relationship to your aunt is more than that food dehydrator.

So free up space in your cupboards and closets and re-home those gifts you don’t want. Use the money they bring in to pay off your credit card or put it into your holiday savings account.

P.S. I know nobody wants to hear it, but paying off your credit card should be a ‘hair on fire’ level priority. Americans paid $104 billion in credit card interest in 2018. Pay off your card and keep that money for yourself!

7. Direct those ‘let’s catch up!’ texts toward free or cheap activities

Things that are great: catching up with friends after the hectic holiday season.

Things that are less great: doing it at a super expensive restaurant you 100% can’t afford.

It’s much easier to suggest an affordable activity at the beginning of the text chain than change the direction of the conversation once everybody’s decided they want to check out the new steak house. So take initiative and be the one to suggest a potluck, a cheap matinee, or a hike.

8. Use any gift cards you got for things you actually need

Did you know that $1 billion (BILLION!) of gift cards go unused every year? If things are truly tight this month and you received some gift cards, use them for groceries or items you truly need. Put the money you saved by doing this towards you credit card bill or other urgent bills.

How’s your bank account looking post-holidays? What are you doing to get back on track? Tell us in the comments so we can learn from you!

Photo by S O C I A L . C U T on Unsplash

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  1. Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

    I’m not broke right now, even after my Christmas shopping (I’m good with budgeting, hah!) but these are great tips! I might actually use some of these myself to save up even more. 😉

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  2. Jennifer King

    Great tips! We did well on Christmas costs this year but I would still like to streamline gift exchanges even further for next year. So many gifts are well-intentioned but cause a ton of stress as I try to figure out how to utilize them and where to put them in the house!

  3. Kristen

    We get a ton of gifts for our kids from family despite our requests to only buy one thing, give consumable things, etc. but most just don’t listen. They want the kids to have something to play with. I would rather they spent less or offered the money for their savings. (and then you sound ungrateful whomp whomp)

  4. Mary W

    This really resonates with me this year–we’re both furloughed.
    We gave Amazon gift cards to the younger generation at the annual gathering (which they may use) while receiving all sorts of socks and scarves from my siblings. My husband fretted that we didn’t reciprocate and I told him we weren’t going to give them stuff they don’t need just for the sake of giving them something. They probably won’t even notice. The gift du jour for people you don’t really know anymore seems to be fleece throws. We got two and I was able to give away one yesterday to someone who did a favor for a friend.
    In the olden days banks and credit unions had Christmas Club accounts. They were short-term bank accounts that you contributed to throughout the year and then withdrew before Christmas. They’ve gone out of favor, probably because they were a service that didn’t generate profits. Too bad.

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