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Taking Post-Holiday Debt Head On

Oct 30, 2007
You don't have to pawn the lawn reindeer. Holiday jobs, creativity and patient problem-solving can help you take control of your finances.

When the reindeer cookies get stale and the staples are finally removed from the strands of 30,000 twinkling bulbs stuck atop your roof, the post-holiday season sometimes gives you a few new activities to occupy your time: fearing the mailman, dreading the phone and hoping you'll soon wake up from your credit card nightmare.

It doesn't have to be like that. With some safe and sound decision making now, you can maintain your financial health through the holidays, and still have enough moolah left over for a six-month supply of that celebrity diet milkshake.

According to Cardweb.com, the average American has about $9,000 in credit card debt. With gift giving, travel plans, eating out and parties spread throughout the winter months, it's peak season for abusing your plastic. So here are a few tips for saving and surviving through the holiday money crunch.

1. Snag holiday jobs

We realize this may be easier said than done. You may already have a full-time job with demanding hours. Or you might be juggling several part-time jobs. Or you may have other demands and responsibilities, such as school or family obligations. However, some of you have no excuse. Yes, we're taking to you...the 24/7 basement gamer, the soap opera addict and the weekend golf warrior. If you have the time and the need, seasonal jobs are abundant during the holidays, especially restaurant jobs and retail jobs. Since part-time gigs offer such flexible schedules, you can grab extra cash on your own time. For seasonal job search advice, read "The secret to landing seasonal jobs & temporary employment." And remember, a part-time job after the holidays can be just as helpful as one before them.

2. Find the middle ground between cheap and creative

We're not encouraging you to be noticeably stingy. The last thing we want is for you to be gift-wrapping homemade macaroni necklaces or handing out handwritten "Free back massage" gift certificates to your loved ones and BFFs (That's kinda creepy). If you can't afford pricey gifts for everyone on your shopping list, try tapping into your talents before you dabble in the third grade arts and crafts scene. Do you fancy yourself a photographer? Then how about snapping photos of friends and family, and tucking them in some affordable frames? Are you a closet Gordon Ramsey fan and something of an amateur chef? Bake up a few dozen cookies and pass them out around the office in tins. (Just be sure to pay attention to peanut allergies; nothing ruins a good gift like a bad case of hives).

Then there are those pricey trips to go visit the fam. You know what's cheaper than coast-to-coast airfare? A couple of computer webcams. Buy one for yourself, mail one to the relatives and spend some quality face-to-face time together in what's the next best thing to actually clanging champagne glasses on New Year's Eve.

3. Be wary of easy solutions

We're not here to be your personal financial advisor, but if you do reach a state of dire debt, we do suggest that you consider credit card consolidation, home equity loans, opening new credit cards, and bankruptcy only as final options. Fast-talking commercial spokespeople and fine print can be especially deceptive when preying on desperate people.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a library of helpful articles and advice for those in serious debt and suffering from other personal finance problems. Whether you're looking for ways to save money or want to find creative ways to fix your credit, check out these FTC facts for consumers.

Of course, you can always go the obvious route by hiding your credit cards for the next few months. Rent a lock box, buy a safe, or mail them to Great Aunt Edna in Oshkosh, Wisconsin for safekeeping under her mattress. Hopefully the cards won't get mysteriously maxed out on yarn, catnip and Wayne Newton vinyl.
About the Author
Mike Ward is the Senior Online Editor for SnagAJob.com, America's largest hourly job website. Easily find and apply to part-time, full-time and seasonal jobs - without ever leaving home. It's all free - and they're open 24/7. Start your job search.
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