Americans are more familiar with overspending than they should be. And there's no better time to go overboard than during the holidays, when much of that purchasing is, at the very least, done in the name of gift giving.

Still, a frightening number of consumers put their finances at risk this past season. During the 2018 holidays, 31% of U.S. adults spent more than expected, according to CompareCards, and that number rose to 44% among parents with children under the age of 18.

Not shockingly, millennials were the worst offenders in this regard; they exceeded their planned spending more than any other age group. And Gen Zers weren't all that far behind.

Woman at laptop on couch holding her head.

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The problem with overspending, of course, is that for many, it will no doubt result in ongoing credit card debt. That's a mistake that could hurt those who went overboard for months, if not years, to come.

An innocent step on the road to financial ruin

Overspending during the holidays might not seem like such an egregious offense, but in reality, something as seemingly minor as a $1,000 credit card balance could escalate into a world of financial hurt. See, 60% of Americans don't have enough money in savings to cover a $1,000 emergency expense. And 40% don't have enough to instantly come up with $400. These are the folks who can't afford to be overspending and racking up credit card debt, because chances are it'll take quite some time to pay it off.

Of course, carrying credit card debt for longer means racking up more interest. Furthermore, hefty credit card balances do a great job of dragging down credit scores, making it more difficult not only to borrow affordably but to do things like secure housing or even get hired for a job.

If you spent more than you should've during the holidays and are now facing a mountain of bills, it's imperative that you tackle that debt sooner rather than later. Otherwise, there's a good chance you'll find yourself haunted by that same mistake once the next holiday season rolls around.

Fueling your recovery

If you're staring at a pile of holiday debt, the first thing you must do is create a budget to get a handle on your spending, and then cut back on expenses to free up cash to apply to your outstanding bills. That could mean unloading a car you technically don't need, banning restaurant meals until your balances are paid off, or canceling the gym membership you rarely use anyway.

Next, look into getting a side hustle. Spending a few hours a week at a second job could work wonders in helping you dig out of your hole.

Finally, be sure to apply whatever extra cash you get your hands on to your outstanding debt. For example, if you get a tax refund this season, you can use it to reduce whatever balance remains from your holiday mishap.

But don't stop saving once last year's holiday debt is gone. Rather, start saving for the upcoming season so you don't repeat your mistake. Once the holidays roll around, the temptation to spend will be overwhelming. But if you have money in the bank to prepare for it, you'll be less likely to wind up in debt the next time around.

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