Whether you chose to wait in long lines before dawn or sit in your pajamas while shopping the deals online, Black Thursday/Friday may have gotten the best of you already. In spite of your best intentions, you overspent, you’re full of regret, and you’re getting a headache just thinking about your next credit card statement. Now what?
Recovering your finances after a major blowout isn’t instantaneous or easy, but it’s definitely possible. The faster you can put spending mistakes behind you, the better, but first you have to be willing to face them. Here’s how.
1. With a sober mind, go through what you bought and return/exchange.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the moment — the rush of shoppers, the allure of good deals and sneaky sales tactics — and you make a few impulsive decisions, even if you don’t overspend.
Shoving the items you now feel guilty or embarrassed about to the back of the closet might make you feel better, but the act might also cost you the 7 to 30-day return/exchange window — in other words, an opportunity to reverse your losses.
As you go through what you bought, separate out the impulse buys you don’t feel as strongly about now that Black Friday fever has worn off and return them – immediately. This will loosen the belt on your budget and make you feel more in control of your spending.
2. Offset over-budget spending by cutting elsewhere.
If you’re still in the red after returning some impulse purchases, it’s time to offset your spending by cutting a different area of your future budget to accommodate it. Start by totaling what you spent and comparing the total to discretionary spending you’ve budgeted for the rest of November-December. Is there something that matches the exact dollar amount? What about two or three ‘luxuries’ that match one half or one third of what your spent? Cut them. You may only need to cut a service or two for a month before you’re back on track, so it’s really not much of a sacrifice. Consider the following:
- Extra cable channels
- Netflix and other streaming media accounts
- Scheduled hair treatments, massages, manicures
- Magazine, book club and other subscriptions
Beware: cutting one of these temporarily might show you how little you’ve missed it… and how much nicer it is to have the cash!
3. Pay it back — fast
If you charged up your credit card(s) for Black Friday, the debt you accumulated and the interest attached to it may have even longer side effects than a light bank account. Resolve to pay your shopping debt off entirely within one to three months. If that’s not feasible, try to pay at least three times the minimum amount. Ultimately, aim to keep your balance below 40 percent of your credit limit so you won’t hurt your credit report. It also might be a good time to lower your interest rate by taking advantage of a ‘zero percent interest on balance transfers’ deal, or use the idea to negotiate a lower rate with your current company.
4. Redeem those freebies
Many retailers offer cash back in the form of gift cards on special buys through the Black Friday weekend, but reports show that many are never used. Don’t let your freebies go to waste – use them to retroactively pay for over-budget spending, or even use them as gifts. If the gift cards aren’t for stores you shop at, go online and sell or exchange them for something you’ll be able to use. Just don’t let them go to waste.
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