St. Charles Herald-Guide

Don't drown in holiday credit card debt

By Heather R. Breaux - January 3, 2007

Every year at this time, we vow to shed two things: the extra pounds we packed on after feasting on too much turkey and the extra credit card debt we racked up on gifts for friends, family and ourselves. In fact, most of us used plastic instead of cash during the holiday season.

Reducing debt is going to be harder than trying to drop a few unwanted pounds.

After all, even if you, well, go cold turkey on shopping after the holidays, your debt will continue to grow, thanks to compounding interest.

Unfortunately, there is no Atkins Diet for debt that will allow you to have your steak and eat it, too. At the very least, make sure you don't wade any deeper into the red.

So now that the shopping is done, you may ask yourself, "Which debt should you pay off first?

You should prioritize your debt. Start with tackling revolving lines of credit, such as those monsterous credit card balances.

Common sense says to clear the highest-rate card first. After all, if you pay off $1,000 on a card charging 21 percent interest, it's the equivalent of earning 21 percent on that money.

I worked as a commercial debt collector during my last few years of college, and trust me, the one person you don't want to ring in the New Year with is a pushy bill collector.

Their job is to make money too, and in most cases, they are getting a percentage of what you pay.

So don't get behind on your payments. It only makes things worse.

Make a budget and set financial goals - and stick with them. You'll be glad you did.