Overcoming Holiday Debt Hangovers

It's the day after Christmas, and visions of sugar plums are no longer dancing in your head. Instead, you're thinking about all the debt you racked up in the course of celebrating the holidays.

As radio host and financial guru Dave Ramsey puts it, many people wake up with "financial hangovers" on this day.

So, what do you do?

Obviously, taking aspirin isn't going to solve this problem.

Ramsey has four suggestions he says would help.

Tabulate Income & Expenses

People suffering from a financial hangover tend to be worried about how they will pay off their big credit card bills. Believe it or not, there's a good chance you do have the money, but you just don't know it.

Ramsey suggests sitting down and listing how much money you bring in each month, and how much you pay out in bills and fixed expenses. There's bound to be money leftover. This is your "discretionary" spending money, and it often goes to things such as eating out.

You may not want to divert a portion of this money to your credit card bills, but you'll at least see that the option is there, and the choice is yours. Creating this list should take under an hour, and will make you feel much better, because it enables you to take control of your money; you no longer feel helplessly overwhelmed by your new credit card balance.

Cut Up Credit Cards

This is Ramsey's familiar rallying call: Get rid of the cards that got you in trouble in the first place! Destroy them, so there's no chance that, in a moment of weakness, you'll dig them out of the desk drawer and charge up a storm. From this point on, don't buy anything that you can't buy with cash or with a debit card, which takes money directly from your account when you make a purchase.

Consider Selling Stuff

If you're still concerned about your credit card balances, and itching to get those bills paid off ASAP, look around your home to see if there are things you can sell.

"E-Bay can start to look really fun," Ramsey said with a laugh. "You look at stuff and say, 'If I sell this, I can pay this bill off. … E-Bay is just an electronic flea market or garage sale. … Selling lots of little things can really add up."

Poke around the garage for sporting equipment you never use, in the closet for clothes that still have the tags on them, etc. Of course, you could also decide you're in the mood to do something really drastic and sell a big item, like your car, for instance. If you buy a less expensive car with a lower payment, you'll suddenly find you have a lot more money in your pocket each month.

Start Saving for Next Year

There's no time like the present, right? As Ramsey loves to say, "Christmas comes at the same time each year; it's never a surprise." In other words, there is no excuse to not have money set aside for gifts, decorations and parties. If you start setting aside a little bit each month right now, the total amount you'll need will seem much less overwhelming. And maybe you can avoid a debt hangover next year!