With the arrival of a new year, setting a resolution around debt could be the smartest thing you could do.

According to Manulife’s 2018 Holiday Debt Survey1, 8 in 10 Canadians say the holidays have become too focused on spending money, while a quarter of Canadians agree that they are more stressed about finances over the holidays than the rest of the year.  

With high pressure to spend, it’s no wonder that three in 10 say they struggle to pay off debt after the holidays.

But it is possible to get back on track. Here are some little ways you can help manage your debts — and plan ahead for the next holiday season:

 

  1. Pen to paper: Write down all that you owe. It’ll seem more manageable when it’s listed out in front of you.

  2. Stash the plastic: Give your credit cards a break by tucking them out of sight. 

  3. Pay a little more: Make more than the minimum payment. (In fact, pay as much as your budget allows!)

  4. Return it: Bring unused items, unmailed gifts, or items you don’t want back to the store. Refunded money can go directly toward your bills.

  5. Staycation: Consider sticking close to home this year. Have fun in your own city or a less expensive destination close by, and put those savings toward your debt.

  6. Year-end bonus: It’s called a ‘bonus’ for a reason. Take this extra (and well-earned) income and redirect it to your debt. 

  7. Take a look at your memberships and subscriptions: Are you using that streaming service or reading those magazines every month? If not, consider cancelling and re-routing the money to your debt.

  8. File your taxes ASAP: Even a small refund can be used to pay down debt. 

  9. Little cutbacks: Whether you brown bag your lunch, fill a coffee thermos from home, take public transit instead of driving, or opt for a games night instead of a trip to the movie theatre, there lots of small ways you can trim your expenses down, leaving you with extra money to help with the bills.

  10. Start planning early: Set a budget for next holiday season, and start saving early. 

Since you’ll be in budgeting mode, have a conversation with your family (or whoever you celebrate the holidays with) about starting a new tradition that only involves buying a gift for one family member, and keeping the budget2 under $25 or $50.

These small tips can help you make a big dent in your debt. It’s still early, too. You have almost a full year, leaving yourself plenty of time for these little actions to make a big difference. Feeling less stress when your next bill arrives is a little win that’s totally within reach.

A little can do a lot.

The information in this article is not to be relied upon as tax advice for specific situations.

Sources: 

12018 Holiday Debt Survey: https://www.manulifebank.ca/personal-banking/plan-and-learn/personal-finance/canadian-debt-survey.html  (Sept 2018) 

210 Secret Santa Gift Ideas for Everyone That Won’t Break Your Budget: https://www.creditcanada.com/blog/secret-santa-gift-ideas-for-everyone-that-wont-break-your-budget (Dec 2018)