When you've caught the last scraps of tinsel floating around the house, and your New Year's resolutions have fallen by the wayside, there's still a final holiday tradition left to enjoy: dreading the arrival of holiday bills. Yes, this time every year, thousands of Canadians are struck with cases of Bill Avoidance Disorder (B.A.D. for short).
Have you ever avoided a statement for multiple days, telling yourself you'll "get to it later"? Have you ever opened a statement, skimmed the first line, and realized you can't face the shame? Have you ignored your banking app notifications, or worse -- deleted your app altogether? Have you ever, for even the briefest of moments, debated the ramifications of just never paying your statement at all, or throwing it out the window, or setting it on fire? Sorry to say, friend, but you might have Bill Avoidance Disorder.
To bring awareness to this financially debilitating disease, we've proclaimed January 15th Bill Avoidance Disorder Day, and we have good news: B.A.D. is curable. Think you've come down with a case? Try all of the following, and call us in the morning.
1. Track your purchases as you make them
The hardest part of opening a bank statement is fear of the unknown. If you didn't make a budget (or if you did but you didn't stick to it) it can be hard to remember every purchase you made during the holiday retail whirlwind, and those small purchases can really add up. Instead, we suggest keeping your receipts, tracking them in a spreadsheet or using an expenses tracking app like Budget Tool, or checking and highlighting your online statements after every shopping trip. Taking the question out of your bills will always make opening them that much easier.
2. Face the music
Planning or no planning -- you have to open your statements, and you have to do it as soon as they land on your door or in your inbox. Much like ripping off a Band-Aid, the faster you do it, the less it'll hurt. We've helped people at Consolidated Credit who wait weeks or months to open bills, which not only affects their financial life, but their everyday life -- the magic of the holidays really loses its sparkle when you're still paying off gifts from two years ago.
3. Make a payment
Especially in months when credit card bills are much higher than the rest of the year, it's important to make the largest payment you can afford. That might mean scrimping on non-essential items like entertainment or meals out, but we recommend cutting as many costs as you're comfortable with when your principal balance is high. Not only will it move you toward a zero balance faster, but your remaining interest payments will be significantly reduced. If paying more than one card, start with the one with the highest interest rate, and you'll be making principal payments much faster.
4. Talk To A Credit Counsellor
All of this advice is easier said than done -- so if you need help, a non-profit credit counselling service can be a great place to start. Especially if you started the season with debt, credit counsellors can help you consolidate all your debt into one low, monthly payment -- no more juggling or avoiding bills. We'll help you fight back against BAD, so schedule an appointment today.
And remember, the easiest way to avoid holiday debt next year is to start saving for gifts now. Put $50-$100 in a savings account every month this year and you'll have enough to cover the food, drinks, gifts, and travel expenses when the holidays roll around next year. Preparation means avoiding BAD Day next year!
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