This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Holiday spending hangover? Here's the financial equivalent of Alka-Seltzer





Many of us start the holiday season with good financial intentions, only to see them disappear like a rabbit in a cheap conjuring trick as the magic of Christmas takes hold. When it comes to money, all that seasonal goodwill can have a damaging effect on willpower. American shoppers spent $265.9 billion in November and December last year, up a higher-than-expected 2.7 percent on 2012, according to a Jan. 8 estimate from ShopperTrak.

Of course, not all of that was piled onto credit cards. Still smarting after the recession, many consumers continue to use debit or prepaid cards, although perhaps the smartest use credit ones while paying off their balances in full each month. Nevertheless, the Federal Reserve's latest consumer credit data show "revolving credit," which is nearly all credit card debt, piling on $4.5 billion in the three months ending Nov. 30. December's figures won't be out until February.

Happy new year!

All of this means that some readers have likely started 2014 with the financial equivalent of a hangover. If you're one of them, don't let your headaches get you down. Unless you were close to the edge of bankruptcy before the holiday season started, you can almost certainly find ways (think of them as Alka-Seltzer for money) to ease your pain.

How hard it's going to be to swallow this medicine will likely depend on how big your problems are. So pick and choose from the advice below, and follow the plan that best suits your particular needs.

Balance-transfer credit cards

The easiest way forward is to shift as much of your plastic debt as you can onto balance-transfer credit cards. At the time of writing, IndexCreditCards.com's listings show a broad range of these products, offering zero-percent APRs for long periods, including some of 18 months. Within a pay-down plan to which you're fully committed, that sort of extended time free of interest could provide you with a useful breather from high-cost debt.

However, these products come with special dangers for those who struggle to manage their finances well, and many find they end up owing more when the balance-transfer offer expires than they did at the beginning. So bear that in mind before applying, along with these other considerations:

  1. Expect to pay a one-time balance transfer fee, usually 3 percent of the sum you transfer.
  2. Don't use the card for new purchases or other charges while the zero-percent deal is current.
  3. Your application is unlikely to be approved unless your credit score is in the good-to-excellent range.

Protect your credit score

No matter how tight your finances are in the first few months of 2014, your priority (after eating, keeping the lights on and getting the family to work and school) should almost certainly be to protect your credit score. That's always been important for future borrowing and certain other financial transactions, but now some employers check your credit report before promoting you, and some do so before making new hires. In December, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced a bill to ban this practice, but its chances of enactment anytime soon seem slim.

1 of 3

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!
DOW 16,960.57 -123.23 -0.72%
S&P 500 1,978.34 -9.64 -0.48%
NASDAQ 4,449.5640 -22.5440 -0.50%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs