By Alan Prahl

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time to take down the decorations, return unwanted gifts and plan to get rid of holiday debt.

Carefully review your credit card bills to make sure there are no unauthorized charges. To eliminate debt more quickly, try to pay more than the minimum payment. If you are carrying balances on multiple cards, make extra payments on accounts with high interest rates first. The earlier you pay off your credit card, the less interest you’ll pay.

Consider returning unwanted holiday gifts or selling them and using the cash to pay down debt. Sure, you could save an unwanted gift and re-gift it later, but why not sell it now before you forget that you have it. If you’re serious about paying off debt, look at unwanted gifts as assets that have value and use the money now to repay debt.

If you cannot afford to pay the minimum, tell creditors about your situation and how you plan to resolve financial problems. If you have a good credit score and payment history, you may be able to negotiate and modify your payment.

Add up all of your spending from holiday shopping, entertaining and traveling. If you are shocked or surprised by the total, plan to spend less next year. Open a holiday savings account at your bank or credit union and establish an automatic savings plan. Each month, some money will be transferred from your checking account to your holiday savings account. If you only use cash from your holiday savings account for your December 2017 holidays, you won’t create distressful debt.

Another proven way to take control of your finances is to develop a simple budget. Creating a budget or spending plan that includes limits for holiday spending can help you spend more thoughtfully and minimize debt.

If you would like help taking charge of your finances, try working with a FISC financial coach. In the last 30 years, we have helped thousands of people to repay debt, save money and build budgets that work.