How Switching Out of Holiday Mode Will Get You Out of Debt Faster
Most of you are on autopilot right now. You’re cruising along, without too many cares, enjoying the remainder of the holiday season. And you deserve it. After all, you’ve spent the year grinding your teeth in traffic jams, scrambling to finish reports before 5pm and waking up before roosters call. A little carefree spending and R&R is warranted. But you will have to return to Earth at some point, or you’ll run out of financial fuel sooner or later, finding yourself in post-season debt. That’s why we’ve dedicated this post for those who are anxious about getting back on track when all the festivities and time off is over. We’re here to help you slowly disengage from holiday mode.
The Holiday High
You probably won’t find “Holiday Mode” in a dictionary, but it’s a state of being that certainly exists. It’s that temporary escape from the normal routine, where the prospect of vacation/travel, celebration, gifts, shopping, sales, socializing and self-improvement (ie. new year’s resolutions) take first place in your mind. For several weeks, you might be able to put debts, stress and personal issues aside. Here in North America, many refer to it as the “Holiday spirit”.
Ironically, it can also be one of the most stressful times of the year. Some people actually resent this time of year, because of the expense and effort that goes into planning out certain festivities. Of course, anyone who feels this way can always simplify things, and still take advantage of the days that they get to take off.
It starts back in November
One of the reasons why it’s so tough to get out of holiday mode stems from how early it begins. After Halloween and Thanksgiving celebrations, preparation for end-of-year celebrations begin, meaning packed parking lots, crowded store aisles, and seasonal ads. It all starts by early November. You might not pay much attention to this right away, but your subconscious starts picking up on it, assuming that shopping around this time of year is a habit for you.
It’ll probably last until February
The early start also comes with a late finish, making the effort to unplug from holiday mode even harder. Nowadays, you have sales that go throughout January. Walk into a retail store over the next few weeks, and you’ll see this in the flesh. And then you have the travels. Imagine jetting off to tropical paradise in the Caribbean, or Australia, and then having to come back into your normal routine. Along with recovery from jet lag, the return to your regular mindset doesn’t happen overnight.
What happens if you don’t disengage
Not everyone will feel the same way about the holidays. But one thing is certain for all – fail to disengage from holiday mode, and it will hurt your finances. Of course, you can ignore this if you don’t get involved in end-of-year activities. However, the risk of debt after the season is real. It’s one of the reasons why people who already have financial hardships find in their efforts to pay off debt remains prolonged. It often has a landslide effect, where debt accumulated during the Christmas/New Years season makes for tight spending and saving months later. There could be a temptation to keep spending on every sale in sight, perhaps wanting to complete a shopping list that was still unfinished on December 25th. Whatever the situation, you have to get a grip on it early.
How to disengage
Getting out of the holiday mentality is something you need to ease into. It’s all about a smooth transition, like a swimmer slowly entering a cold body of water. At this point, it’s all about cutting out the emotional attachment you have to the festivities and habits of the holiday season.
- Take down the decorations – The sight of Christmas lights, ornaments and other decor may give the illusion that you’re still in holiday mode. If you choose to do nothing else over the next few days, at least take the decorations down. It will take you out of the celebratory spirit, not to mention save you from having to deal with the tedious task later.
- Learn something work/school-related – You might not have to go to the office or class tomorrow, but you can prepare yourself mentally. Perhaps you can review some notes, or brush up on a skill that could make you productive. If you don’t have the motivation, then look at it this way: you may not want to practice them now, but they’re needed, so you might not be able to practice them at work.
- Adjust your sleep habits – One of the simplest ways to get yourself out of the holiday mode is sleep as if you had to get up early the next day. You don’t actually have to wake up at 5am, but you can get up at 7am instead of 11am. It’s a practice that helps you ease into the groove. You can always reward yourself by doing something relaxing after waking up, such as watching a movie or reading a book.
How to reassume control
Now we have to look at what you need to actually do to get out of the holiday mentality. Once your mind is ready, it will be easier to address your finances and how the holidays affected it. At this stage, you have to peer into the numbers and how they’re shaping your money.
Look at your receipts –
- Looking at your expenses might hurt a bit. This is certainly true if you already know that you’ve overspent. However, taking note of how much cash you dispersed is the first step to taking charge of the debt you may have accumulated.
- Look at your budget – The next thing you have to look at is your budget. It is the blueprint you create for yourself, which dictates how much you should spend, save, invest and so forth. Of course, it’s very easy to overlook it. That’s why you need to revisit it, so you can be grounded and focused on keeping your debt to a minimum.
- Look at your income – Just about all of you know how much you’re bringing home, or you can at least give a ballpark figure. But you should still give consideration to it. Reminding yourself of how much money you have to work with will help you make wise choices in your effort to keep your debts from going off the rails. For example, looking at your income can help you decide whether you need to pick up some extra shifts at work, or perhaps, cut out a non-essential expense for the time being.
How to land
Once you have a clearer picture of your financial situation, you will have to concentrate on making a plan. The purpose of this plan is to get you out of debt acquired over the holidays, or pre-existing debts that increased because of holiday shopping. They should be real strategies that deliver measurable results.
- Immediately cease unnecessary spending – First and foremost, put an end to spending on things you don’t need or could wait for. That could mean cancelling subscriptions,, easing up on outings or finding cheaper alternatives to things you need. Whatever you deem as being unnecessary is your choice, but just make sure to stick to that choice.
- Get rid of excess – Closely related to the preceding point on avoiding unwarranted spending, is the idea of returning things or selling certain items. Many people think that they have to keep what they buy. But that’s not so. Don’t feel obliged to keep anything you no longer want, providing it wasn’t given to you as a gift. Returning a purchase or selling an old item can quickly put money back into your pockets. With that said, you should always keep your receipts, and maintain your “sellable” belongings in good order.
- Adopt a payment strategy – The next step is to look at your existing debt, and then decide how you will tackle it. In previous posts, we’ve mentioned debt reducing strategies, such as the snowball method as well as the avalanche method. These two approaches are popular ways to bring debt down to a manageable level.
Disengage from Holiday Mode
After a long and stressful year, you deserve to cruise for a few weeks. The holiday season is a time to live life on autopilot, hanging out with family and friends, and buying the “toys” you’ve had on your wishlist for some time now. But the ride can’t last forever. At some point, you’ll have to disengage from autopilot, and get back into the groove where you have full control over your finances. After all, you don’t want to find yourself in a debt hole that gets deeper as time passes. By making an effort to ease out of the holiday mindset, you’ll find it easier to control your financial situation in the coming months.