3 Signs Your Holiday Credit Card Tab Is Already Too High

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  • Many people make a lot of holiday purchases in November.
  • If you're staring at a super-high credit card tab in early December, it's imperative that you take action.
  • If you've gone overboard, consider returning some items, transferring your balance to a 0% APR card to save on interest, or picking up a side hustle to help you pay everything off faster.

Are you already in over your head?

A lot of people aim to do the bulk of their holiday shopping in November. That way, they can finish their shopping early, all the while taking advantage of sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

If you did your share of shopping in November, you may be mostly done with your holiday purchases. But you might also be sitting on a credit card tab that's too high for comfort. Here are some signs that you've already gone overboard.

1. Your balance is higher than what you've budgeted for

Maybe you set yourself a budget of $1,000 for all holiday-related expenses. If you've already racked up a $1,500 holiday credit card tab, it's a sign that you've spent too much. This especially holds true if you still have items on your list you're hoping to buy, or if you still have upcoming expenses planned, like travel.

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2. You're at -- or almost at -- your spending limit on most of your cards

You can't rack up unlimited charges on a credit card. If you've maxed out your spending limit on most of your credit cards, or have gotten close, it's a sign that you've spent too much.

3. You're already facing minimum payments that don't fit into your budget

You may already have gotten a credit card bill or two that includes your holiday purchases. If your minimum payment is so high that you can't imagine working it into your regular budget, then it means you've spent too much money on things that are holiday-related.

What to do if you've already gone overboard

If you've already gone overboard on holiday spending at this stage of the game, the first and most important thing to do is stop spending immediately. Do not buy any more holiday items or add to your credit card balances in any way.

Next, take a look at your purchases and figure out which are returnable. Chances are, some are. If you bought a lot of expensive gifts, you can replace them with lower-cost alternatives -- or even explain to your loved ones that money is tight this year and you really have to cut back.

If you can't return enough purchases to significantly lower your credit card balances, see if it's possible to do a balance transfer, where you move your existing balances onto a new card with a 0% introductory APR. That will at least prevent your balance from accruing interest for a period of time while you work to chip away at it.

And speaking of work, you may need to pick up a second job to pay off the debt you've incurred to date. That may not be ideal, but it's a far better bet than letting that debt drag on.

It's easy enough to go overboard on the holidays, so don't beat yourself up too much if that's the boat you've landed in. At the same time, do what you can to remedy the situation so you don't wind up struggling to pay off your credit cards once the holidays are over.

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