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How do you deal with holiday debt?

You promised yourself that you were going to take it easy on the spending this holiday season. However, things got away from you. You spent a little more on gifts than you intended. Your kids outgrew their formal Christmas outfits from last year, so you had to buy new ones. You saw some holiday decorations you just had to have.

If, like many people, you put many of these purchases on your credit cards and forgot about them, the bills you’ll be getting within the upcoming weeks will quickly remind you. So how do you get control of your holiday debt, which may be piled onto an already troublesome mountain of debt?

One of the most effective ways to break the cycle of credit card debt is to stop using your cards. Not too many years ago, people could just cut them up or stick them in their safe deposit box. Now it’s easy to use your cards online without ever looking at them. Many sites conveniently save your credit card information for you, so all you have to remember is your security code, and you can charge away.

Make a commitment not to use any of your cards — even those on which you don’t have a balance — and not to make purchases for which you don’t have the money on hand. Then commit to paying down your credit card debt.

There are various ways to do this. Some people start by first paying off the cards that have the highest interest rates. Others begin by paying off the cards with the lowest balances first. This can give you an added sense of accomplishment. Whatever you do, don’t neglect any of your cards. Late and missed payments are only going to cost you more in fees.

If you find that foregoing your use of credit cards isn’t an option because you’ve come to rely on them to pay for necessities like groceries, it may be wise to seek professional guidance to help you deal with your debt. While most people don’t want to consider personal bankruptcy as an option, it may be the best way to reorganize all of your debt and get control of your financial situation.

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