For many of us, 2018 was a doozy, but we here at Brit + Co are ready to hit refresh in 2019! Follow our Hit Refresh series through January and February for new ideas, hacks, and skills that will help you achieve (and maintain!) those New Year’s resolutions.

The stockings are no longer hung by the chimney with care. Your holiday cookie tins are filled with little more than sugary crumbs. Most of your gifts have been organized in their rightful places, and you’ve written thank-you cards to loved ones. You’ve made a few returns (not every present can be a hit!) and started treating yourself with the gift cards you received. You’re already missing all of the holiday specials on TV.

Oh, and you’re kind of freaking out about your finances.

woman paying bills

It’s no secret that the holidays are basically the most stressful time of the year, money-wise. You want to be generous with your family and friends, of course, but you also find yourself spending more on groceries, party supplies, wrapping trimmings, and festive outfits. And if you do a lot of traveling for the holidays, you’re bound to have even more expenses. Suddenly, your balances are all looking a little low.

Try not to stress, though, because there are tangible steps you can take to get your finances back on track after heavy holiday spending. Michelle Goeppner, director of credit product strategy at Alliant Credit Union, offers these seven suggestions.

1. Consider a balance transfer. Did you spread out your holiday spending over a bunch of credit cards? Are you now feeling a little overwhelmed by the sheer number of bills you need to pay? A balance transfer, according to Goeppner, allows you to take existing balances on multiple cards and consolidate them onto one card that carries a lower interest rate. If this sounds like it would help your wallet or your mental health, check with your bank to get more information.

2. Start planning for the next holiday season. Yes, we know — it seems a little crazy to start looking ahead to another period of crazy spending when you’re simply trying to recover from the last one. Think about it, though: Your holiday spending patterns are fresh in your mind right now, so it’s kind of the ideal moment to get your wheels turning about how you can budget more effectively going forward. “Evaluate your recent holiday expenditures, including gifts, travel, decorations, party supplies, etc., and consider your upcoming life expenses to determine how much money you should set aside for the holidays [next year],” Goeppner says. Knowing that you’re all set for the most wonderful time of next year will make you feel in control of your finances, which will, in turn, give you the confidence to keep your spending in check in the meantime.

3. Set up automatic transaction alerts. There’s so much money changing hands around the holidays that it can be easier than ever to miss the signs of credit card fraud. If you don’t get them already, opt in to transaction notifications on your credit and debit cards so you can stay on top of what’s coming in and out of your accounts. You’ll pick up on fraud-related red flags earlier than you would otherwise, but it will also make you that much more aware of how frequently you’re swiping those cards in the holiday aftermath.

4. Review your credit report. Goeppner confirms that there are many more fraud attempts during the holiday season relative to the rest of the year. As you take down your decorations and put away the festive cookie cutters, take a moment to review your credit report for any errors. The last thing you need when you’re trying to pull yourself out of a post-holiday financial hole is an uncorrected fraud attempt.

5. Take a deep dive into your credit card statements. Pour yourself a glass of wine, put a slice of leftover pie on a plate, and go through your recent credit card statements. Start looking for spending patterns in certain categories. Where are you spending the most? Which areas can you cut back in to help recover in the early part of the year?

6. Avoid in-store credit card offers. Retailers are going to continue to try to entice you with offers for in-store credit cards that will reduce the cost of on-the-spot purchases. Resist the urge! Goeppner notes that these kinds of credit cards typically end up actually costing customers because of their interest rates and fees. Who needs that?

7. Maximize rewards on your existing cards. Instead of racking up new credit cards at specific stores, make sure that you’re taking full advantage of the rewards associated with the cards you already have. Cash in on any rewards that are waiting to be redeemed, and review the perks of each of your cards so you can optimize your purchases in the new year.

How do you plan to recover financially from the expensive holiday season? Tweet us @BritandCo.

(Photo via Getty)