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Are you part of the growing number of Americans who have more debt than savings? You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted by Bankrate, “…only 44 percent of households have more money in emergency savings than the amount they owe in credit card debt.” One in five Americans expects to “…die while still in debt,” with 18 percent of those planning to “…take their loans to the grave.”

As the fall season is upon us, it’s important to note that the upcoming holidays don’t exactly make debt decrease. Many families find themselves in more debt than before, which spirals throughout the year until the next holiday season. Consider it a recurring cycle that seems never-ending. If you wonder what you can do to keep your expenses under control for the holidays, these three simple tips can help.

  • Map out your income and expenses to set a realistic budget.Before you can tackle your debt, you need to have a deep understanding of your income and expenses so that you can set yourself some goals for the holidays and beyond. Before planning for big holiday dinners and gifts, take some time to list each of your expenses to create a realistic budget. You can then adjust each line item accordingly to fit within the amount you have to spend.
  • Create a plan so that you can tackle your debt head-on.While there are many different ways to pay down debt, the snowball and avalanche methods are the most popular. Both involve making the minimum payments on all but one debt. With the snowball method, your focus is on the lowest debt you have first. With the avalanche method, your focus is on the debt with the highest interest rate. Neither one is better than the other, so research both to see what is best for your situation. Regardless of what you choose, you can be debt-free if you stick to either plan.
  • Take on a side hustle to earn some extra cash.There are different ways to earn some extra cash on the side. Some people shop thrift stores and garage sales to sell items at a profit online. Believe it or not, many are so successful that they rent a local self-storage unit to keep their inventory in each month! Other people choose to rideshare or deliver through apps such as Favor or Grubhub. Renting your home out to Airbnb for weeks you are away is a great option, too (you can always keep sensitive belongings offsite in a self-storage unit if needed).

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt.” And while that may sound extreme – when you watch debt increase week after week, month after month, it weighs on you. But, by setting a spending plan, paying down your debt, and finding ways to earn some extra cash – you can finally be debt-free (which is the best possible gift you could give yourself this holiday)!