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If you're dreading those holiday bills, chances are you spent too much, but mounting credit card debt can be managed with a little creativity.
The sound can make you cringe, and seeing the statement makes it worse. It's called credit card sticker shock, and if you don't have a plan, it could be overwhelming.
"I cut all of mine up a couple of years ago and I only use cash now," says shopper Rebecca Fojt.
Bryan-based consumer credit counseling services says there are creative ways to wrangle your debt, short of cutting up your cards.
Credit Counselor Tommie White suggests adding up your bills and trying to pay a little extra on each card each month.
"A lot of people can reduce their utility bill right now because the weather is pretty mild. Go ahead and try to have a garage sale. That could net you $200-$300. Sell some clothes at the consignment shop. Sell DVDs, video games. It will help you to pay toward your bills," says White.
Thirty five million Americans make only the required minimum payment each month. Sticking to that rate could take years to pay off the debt and cost more for the items purchased.
"One thing you may want to do is pay the minimum payment plus interest that gives you an extra push to pay off the debt faster," says White.
If the bottom line is still frightening you may decide to transfer your balance to another card with a better offer, but always read the fine print, and tell your current card company because they may work out a deal with you.
If you're really serious about getting rid of your holiday debt, stop using the cards for a while.
"Freeze your credit cards in a block of ice, and put it in your freezer. That way it's not with you when you go shopping and it gives you a visual reminder of what you're trying to do is freeze your debt, and you'll feel really silly trying to thaw it out when you want to go shopping," says White.
White's last piece of advice is once you pay down your cards, save the money for next holiday season.
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