The holiday season can be wonderful, but also financially stressful. According to Jeffrey F. Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Can­ada, more Canadians every year start off January with a massive debt on their shoulders.

“According to current research by financial institutions, almost half a million Canadians are behind on credit card payments by 90 days or more. That’s three months worth of interest charges that are snowballing,” said Schwartz.

He notes that if you don’t deal with your holiday debt at the start of the year, the situation can get out of control.

Schwartz has six suggestions for an action plan:

• Aim to pay down debt as soon as possible — paying interest is just giving money away.

• Sit down with your family and write out a budget.

• Total up the amount you owe on each credit card.

• Decide how you want to tackle your debt until balances are paid in full, whether it’s better budgeting, household cutbacks or making extra income.

• Paying off the highest interest rate debt first. Move to other debt from there.

• Write down what you are spending. By keeping track of financial transactions, a pattern will appear and it becomes easier to pinpoint and stop bad habits.

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