12 Smart Post-Holiday Moves
After a busy holiday season filled with giving and getting gifts, some of us feel the financial pinch in January. Keep your finances on track with these smart post-holiday money moves.
1. Make a Money Resolution
The post-holiday season is the perfect time to make sound financial resolutions. You've had your fun and indulgence, so now it's time to tighten your belt a little. Make a plan for the coming year — be it paying down your debt, saving a certain amount every month, or making a budget — and you'll be in a good place to start making smart financial decisions for the next 12 months. (See also: 10 New Year Money Resolutions Anyone Can Keep)
2. Check Your Credit Score
Every year, you're entitled to a free credit report from AnnualCreditReport.com. Take advantage of this to see if your credit score has taken any hits over the past year, and make a plan to improve your credit score during 2016.
3. Transfer Your Balance
If you racked up some credit card debt during the holidays, consider transferring the balance to another card with low introductory interest rate to avoid paying excess amounts of interest. Although the low interest rate will expire after the introductory period, some cards offer as much as 21 months of relief to pay off the balance. (See also: Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards)
4. Do Your Taxes Early
As soon as you get your tax documents from your employer, start doing your taxes. The earlier you file your taxes, the earlier your tax refund will come, which might be the key to paying down some of that holiday debt.
5. Cut Your Dining Budget
After a season of feasting, January is a good time to trim the fat — in your budget, that is! Try cutting down on dining out and instead cook healthy dinners at home. As a bonus, you could combine this with a resolution to eat healthier and end up in better shape both physically and financially.
6. Return Unwanted Stuff
If there are any gifts you bought that you didn't end up giving, return them ASAP before the return period expires. If you received gifts that you don't want or need, try to return those as well. Many large stores will let you return merchandise without a receipt (as long as it's in the original packaging with tags intact).
7. Set Aside Re-Gifts
Honestly, I don't always give my kids all of their presents. They always get so many, I feel that it's excessive and only contributes to the clutter in our home. So I set aside a few presents that I can give at upcoming birthday parties, where they can be enjoyed by someone else, while also saving me a little cash.
8. Avoid Shopping
Avoid the post-holiday sales like the plague. Don't even look at the ads to avoid temptation. You've spent enough during the holidays!
9. Stay Informed About Your Spending
Sometimes it's easy to rack up a large credit card balance because you don't know how much you've already spent. If you haven't already, tie your accounts into an app like Mint.com, which allows you to see, at a glance, how much you're spending.
10. Go on a Spending Freeze
The month or two after the holidays is the perfect time to go on a spending freeze — when you are the most determined to stick to your goals. For one month, don't spend money on anything that isn't a complete necessity. Go through your freezer and pantry to cook meals, buying just the fresh produce that you need. No shopping, no eating out, and no trips to Starbucks. At the end of the month, you'll have a healthy cushion of savings to either pay off debt, or to save for a rainy day. Re-evaluate your month of no spending, and consider doing it for another month.
11. Do Your Spring Cleaning
What better way to start fresh than by going through your house and getting rid of all the stuff you don't need? Go through your garage and basement (or other storage areas) and sell unwanted furniture, tools, and other miscellaneous items. Go through your closet and see if you can sell used clothing to an online consignment store like Thredup, or a local used clothing store. Donate what you can't sell and give yourself a little breathing room in your home.
12. Start a Free or Low-Cost Hobby
New Year, new habits. Replace a more expensive hobby with a free or low-cost one. For example, if you love trying out new restaurants, maybe pick up gourmet cooking instead. Take up running or another low-cost sport instead of paying for fitness classes (and recruit a friend to keep you accountable). (See also: Pick Up One of These Frugal Hobbies This Weekend)
What are you going to do after the holidays to keep your finances in good health?
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