How to deal with Post-Christmas debt

Published: Dec. 28, 2011 at 3:40 AM CST|Updated: Dec. 28, 2011 at 11:25 AM CST
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JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Christmas it's come and gone, but the damage left by those swiping their credit cards this holiday shopping season is still yet to come. But, there are ways slash down that holiday debt.

"When they start opening up those bills. It's seriously a state of panic," said Garry Patterson with Clearpoint Financial Solutions. He says the post-Christmas blues it's something he sees far too often.

"They realize what they've done and often time are in a state of panic. Often times, they have no idea how they are going to pay those bills," said Patterson. predicted shoppers would dish out around 700 dollars on gifts this holiday season. That's a pretty good chunk of change to add to your normal bills. And most likely, a large percentage of that will be placed on credit cards.

"If you spend 1,000 dollars at Christmas and you charge it, you're probably going to end up paying about 2,000 dollars back," said Patterson.

That is, if you don't pay off the bill off immediately, which is often unrealistic. So if you do ring-up the credit card, Patterson says the best way to ring-down the holiday debt is to set goals.

"Take a look at your budget, cut back expenses. Give yourself a realistic, but firm amount of time to pay it back. Say for example you get a tax refund, knock that debt out," said Patterson.

If the holiday spending is distributed between several individual store cards, go for the highest interest card first. But you have to be careful and set priorities to avoid damaging your credit score.

"If they may miss the more important payments to pay their holiday bills. Things like car payments or a mortgage, you could damage your credit for seven years if you start missing the wrong payments," said Patterson.

Angie Abbott and her daughter Ashlyn were out Wednesday afternoon, many making some returns and exchanges. She was one of the many bargain hunters who splurged this Christmas.

"I spent probably several thousands of dollars," said Abbott. But she didn't swipe the plastic, she paid in cash. "I usually save throughout the year and pay cash. I like to pay for it and know exactly what I'm paying for with no extra charge," said Abbott.

It's something Abbott says she learn early on in life, and wants to past down to her daughter.

"No credit card. I've seen too many people make bad mistakes," said Ashlyn Abbott.

But if you do find yourself in a bind, Patterson says resolve to pay of the debt, but then think about next year. "Plan each month. A Christmas Club is a great way to do it. For example, if you want to spend a thousand dollars for Christmas, you need to put back 83 dollars a month," said Patterson.

Patterson says if you pay the minimum on you credit card, the consequences for over spending on the holidays could last for years to come. For more tips, just got to

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