Holiday Spending Snapbacks
In the fresh light of 2019, is your holiday spending from 2018 sending shock waves through your bank account and credit card bills? Pumpkin spice everything, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve parties all hit in the same quarter of the year. Ouch.
If your holiday spending got a little (or a lot) out of control this past year, snapback from it with these actionable ideas.
Check-in on Military Benefits for Your Credit Cards
Did you go overboard with your holiday spending and now you’re facing the facts as your credit card bills arrive? If you’re Servicemember (or a sometimes even a military spouse), your credit card company may have some special benefits for you.
The SCRA and MLA are legislation that provides some specific financial protections for military servicemembers. However, many credit card companies offer above and beyond what is required by law according to the SCRA or MLA. On their website sometimes they call it “applying SCRA or MLA” to your account. Whatever they want to call it, I’m not complaining. Waived credit card fees, low or 0% interest rates, and even back-payment on fees or interest paid are good in my book. It doesn’t cost anything to ask your credit card advisor if they will apply SCRA/MLA to your accounts or if they have additional military benefits for you.
Call or search online with your credit card company to make sure any military benefits they offer are being applied to your account.
Meal Plan & Prep
Two things probably happened over the holidays, you ate a lot and you ate out a lot. Eating out, impulse buying at the grocery store, and party snacks and treats help to pack on extra pounds during the holidays, but they can also end up costing you a fortune.
Start off 2019 with a meal plan and a resolution to eat out less and you’ll save more than just calories. Eating out at restaurants is expensive, especially when you consider the markup on drinks, tips, and taxes on top of what you order off the menu.
Pick a meal and dedicate a Sunday afternoon to doing some meal prep for the week or even month ahead. Military spouse Rebecca Alwine has a great guide to freezer cooking for newbies.
Credit Card Balance Transfers:
If you got a little out of control with holiday spending and you can’t make the minimum payments or you are having to pay interest on multiple cards, you might want to think about credit card debt consolidation.
Check to see if any of your existing cards have balance transfer offers, where you can consolidate your debt to a card with the lowest APR. Some credit card companies might even have special offers for military servicemembers. If you have good credit, you might be able to find a 0% offer for 12-18 months. Then you can focus off paying your credit debt without interest.
Before you snag a balance transfer offer, make sure you read the fine print…like really actually read it. If you read it and still don’t understand, call the company and review any questions or concerns you have with them over the phone.
Cut the “Extras” for a month:
If you’re starting out 2019 with debt due to your holiday spending, now is not the time to #TreatYourSelf. At least for a month, cut out all the “extras” you can think of in your budget. Wait? You don’t have a budget? Start with writing down all your expenses and go from there. Meal delivery kits, curated clothing memberships, movie channels, and, date nights, etc. Whatever it is that you treat yourself to each month, go a month without it.
It’s not easy getting out of debt or building back your savings when you overspend. Some expenses you can’t change either, like your mortgage payment or daycare costs. However, you can brainstorm some of the costs that are flexible (utilities or groceries) or costs you can eliminate (subscription boxes, meal delivery kits, movie channels, date nights) at least for one month!
Skipping your monthly fun spending will not only help you save money,
Put the 2.6% Military Pay Raise to Work
2019 brings a 2.6% pay raises for our military servicemembers (see 2.6% military pay raise charts). Whoohoo! Although it’s only a 2.6% raise, it’s still such a nice extra amount that you can apply to debt, savings, or your TSP every month.
If possible, add the amount of your raise to your automatic payments for debt, savings, or TSP, so you won’t even have a chance to think about spending it.
Challenge yourself to a “No-Spend” month.
My friend David at Zero Day Finance makes it easy to try the challenge and even has a free Zero Day Challenge spreadsheet to download. Chances are you won’t actually have a “no-spend” month because well, life happens.
Mortgages, daycare, electricity, etc are all expenses you can’t stop, but when you have to write down your sushi take-out, trips to Target, or your coffee runs, it helps you to start seeing all the micro-expenses that add up.
Post your No-Spend Calendar in a popular spot in your home where you will remember to circle no-spend days or X out days where you fell short.
Turn in your old stuff for cash:
Were you gifted some great new stuff from friends and family over the holidays? Awesome. Lucky you! Now’s a perfect time to check-in with all the old clutter in your life to see what you just don’t need anymore. Marie Kondo your house and make a little cash on the side too!
Sell used clothing online at places like ThredUp or Poshmark. In person, try stores like Plato’s Closet or Once Upon a Child. Use apps like LetGo to list things you just don’t need anymore. You’ll make a little cash and free up a lot of space.
Some items you post, will just not sell. Even if you can’t sell them, consider donating them instead. You’ll benefit from the feel goods of donating to someone who can really use your goods and not having clutter in your home!
Create a realistic holiday spending budget for next year
New year, new you. If you failed to create a holiday budget or failed to stick to a holiday budget in 2018, the good news is that 2019 gives you a fresh start.
The best place to start is with the creation of a fresh 2019 monthly budget. Twelve months from now, when you get back into holiday mode, you’ll be better prepared if you’ve been working with a budget all year. When you’re ready to create your 2019 Holiday Budget, check out these five tips to budget for the holidays.