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How to get out of holiday debt

How to get out of holiday debt

SAN ANTONIO - The National Retail Federation found the average consumer planned to spend more than $1,000 on the holidays this year, not just on presents but on decorations, candy and even gifts for themselves.

If all that shopping has put you into debt, we've found tips from the experts on how you can get your finances back on track by spring break.

"I definitely was an emotional spender," local wardrobe stylist Aimee Schafer says.

And during the holidays, she is one passionate gift-giver.

"What is the joy going to be like in their face when I give this to them?" Schafer says she asks herself while shopping.

Her spending habits caught up with her on a day that could have cost thousands in medical bills.

"I actually got in a really bad car wreck," Schafer remembers. "It was an ah-ha moment for me. I need to change this. My finances have overtaken my day and they almost took my life and my children's lives."

She turned to financial wellness coach Melinda Adams, whose busiest time of year is January when holiday credit card bills start arriving.

Her first tip to getting out of holiday debt makes a lot of sense.

"The first thing I recommend is: don't go to the after Christmas sales," Adams says.

Her second tip is easy enough: she recommends a 30-day spending freeze.

"For the month of January, only buy things you need," Adams says.

Her third tip, though, can be tricky: make a budget and stick to it. If spreadsheets scare you, don't worry - there's an app for that.

"There's Every Dollar, there is You Need A Budget, so many apps that make it easier to track your spending on your phone," Adams says.

Tip number four: look for side jobs.

"You can drive for Lyft or Uber. You can do dog-sitting through Rover.com," Adams says. "There's just endless possibilities to make extra money on the side."

And finally, tip number five: be honest about what's under the tree, because 80% of us bought gifts for ourselves.

"So if you're feeling some buyer's remorse, go ahead and take that item back," Adams says.

With these tips, Schafer turned her family's finances around in just three months.

"By spring break, you're going to be where you need to be," she says. "After I hit my first month and I had spent under-budget, honestly my heart had so much joy. It had more joy than it's ever had for all of these Christmases."

By EMILY BAUCUM

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