Splurging on gifts, celebrations and travel may be well-honored holiday traditions, but dealing with the financial aftermath of holiday spending can be a drag on the new year. If your holidays are over but your bills are not, here are seven ideas to help you cut expenses, raise a few dollars and shape up your finances for the year ahead.
1. Cash In a Few Vacation Days
According to a Pew Research Center survey, 46% of workers don't use all of the vacation time they're offered. Taking a vacation is great for your mental health, so don't rob yourself of the opportunity to take a well-deserved trip. But if you have a few days left over (and your company policy allows), cashing them in could help you pay down some of your holiday spending.
2. Rent Out Your Car
If you have an extra car in good condition, you may be able to rent it out on a carsharing platform like Turo or Getaround. Although you'll have to clean and maintain your vehicle (check out the guidelines on each site), you can set your own availability and pricing. Don't have a car? You may be able to rent out your empty garage space on Neighbor or Spacer.
3. Get a Side Gig
Thanks to the gig economy, it's now easier than ever to find a side hustle to help pay down debt. Drive for DoorDash, Uber or Lyft. Find a temporary job on Indeed or ZipRecruiter. Get freelance work on sites like Upwork and Fiverr. Look for odd jobs on TaskRabbit or Thumbtack. Sign up for babysitting on Care.com or pet sitting on DogVacay.
Doing side work doesn't have to be tedious. In fact, it can be a great outlet for outside interests. Connect with your inner educator by doing some tutoring or get some aggression out by doing a few hours of demolition work—all while paying off holiday debt.
4. Sell Things You Don't Need
While most of us have small items like clothing or shoes we can sell on Poshmark or eBay, many also have larger items—cars, bicycles, patio furniture or computers—that could be making cash and freeing up space. Stop tripping over that workout equipment in your garage and help it find a new life gathering dust in someone else's home, while you enjoy the extra cash. Facebook Marketplace, OfferUp and other sites that focus on local sales could help.
5. Renegotiate Your Monthly Bills
It's easy to put monthly bills on autopilot—literally, if you set up automatic payments. But many of those bills may be worth a second look.
Renegotiating bills from your cable provider, mobile phone company, home security vendor and others could save you money, especially if it's been a while since you signed up. The downside: Contacting these companies personally is time-consuming and easy to put off until a more convenient time (or never). Experian BillFixer™, a service included in the Experian CreditWorks℠ Premium membership, renegotiates selected bills on your behalf, freeing up the funds to pay down holiday debt—and improve your finances over the long term.
6. Consider a Debt Consolidation Loan
Rates continued to increase in 2023, which makes carrying balances more expensive. If you're carrying high-interest credit card debt, high rates can make it difficult to get ahead of what you owe.
If you have good credit, one way to make debt payoff more affordable and efficient is to take out a debt consolidation loan. A debt consolidation loan is a personal installment loan you use to pay down or pay off your credit card debt. Debt consolidation loans typically have lower fixed interest rates than variable rate credit card debt. And because they're installment loans, you get a fixed monthly payment and a finite loan term: When the loan is finished, your debt is gone.
7. Prepare for the Next Holiday Season
You just survived this holiday season—you're hardly ready to go out and start the cycle all over again, right? But spreading the joy of holiday spending out over the year can have real financial benefits, including more manageable spending, less debt, fewer supply chain and gift shortage issues, and less stress.
While it may be too ambitious to try to finish your holiday shopping by March, it's never too soon to start planning. Take advantage of sales for gift items and holiday décor you know you're going to need in December. Consider a sinking fund: By setting aside a bit of cash every month, you'll have a pool of money to spend in time for Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
The Bottom Line
Ideally, a few months of belt-tightening, creative fundraising and budgetary discipline will put you back on track financially. If you can, use your post-holiday shape-up to inspire a full year of financial fitness. Pay down debt and keep your credit in good shape. It's far easier to pay for the holidays and create a post-holiday payoff plan when your credit starts the season in a good place. Don't forget to monitor your credit to protect against holiday (and year-round) identity theft.
Cultivating good money habits can pay dividends at holiday time and throughout the year. Stick to a budget, eliminate money wasters and build up your savings. These everyday practices can make the next holiday season even more festive by creating room for extra spending without ramping up extra stress, and make your holiday recovery easier when the new year begins.