Every year, when the holidays are over, I feel slightly blue and become a bit moody at the thought of returning to normal after having time off.
I’m also disappointed (mixed with relief!) when the kids go back to school. I get anxious abut starting up my spin class again after skipping it for almost a month, and I most of all I get overwhelmed when I think of my post-holiday debt.
Everyone in my family will agree that I go ‘all out’ and it’s true. I spend more than I ever intend to, but I can’t help it. When making gift lists, it’s like a hyperdrive switch goes on and I think of everyone who needs a thoughtful and personal gift. Even if I set a budget, I always end up spending more than I planned. Let’s just say my kids never complain about not having enough.
This year, during my bout of post-holiday blues, as I stared at the overwhelming stack of credit card bills and silently cursed my generosity, I decided to change the way I spend my money (or I suppose I should say ‘our’ money).
On New Year’s Eve, I proclaimed to myself, and my husband, that I would get out of my post-holiday debt once and for all. I raised a toast to my new financial future. Then I woke up the next morning feeling afraid I’d been too confident in my proclamation, fuelled by a little Champagne! However, I grabbed a cup of coffee and delved into the stack of bills.
Managing my monthly expenses
In order to tackle my debt I knew I had to figure out our monthly expenses, a task that usually makes me panic. But it was time to bite the bullet. I wrote down everything, including the mortgage, student loan payments, food, clothing expenses, my daughter’s dance lessons, gym membership, credit cards and our cable. I also unearthed some less important expenses I had forgotten about like a subscription to a magazine I never read and a channel on our streaming service we never watch.
Our monthly total left me more than a little shocked, but I was in the mood to keep going. Next, I devised a budget for our family – and mostly for me, as the household’s biggest spender.
Creating a budget and sticking to it…
I knew I couldn’t cut out some of the important things like student loans, mortgage, groceries, credit card payments, and definitely not my daughter’s dance lessons, but I was willing to part with some of my ‘favourite’ things, at least until our debt was clear. So I:
- Cancelled my gym membership and used my own equipment at home.
- Stopped our cable and kept our streaming service, while ditching the channel we never watch.
- Started couponing again when grocery shopping, and stopped buying all brand-name items.
- Ditched my daily latte habit – my husband did too – and started making coffee at home.
- Boosted our income by accepting a temporary position at my daughter’s school.
In less than a month, I realised that our family doesn’t miss cable TV or brand-name spaghetti sauce. We miss our lattes, but my husband and I enjoy making coffee for one another at home in our pyjamas. I have been working out more at home and enjoyed binge watching seasons of TV series while walking on the treadmill in the solitude of our basement.
I know that, because of the money we’re saving, I’ll be able to pay more than the minimum payment on our credit cards and if we stay on our frugal path, we’ll have our holiday debt paid off in less than six months.