Using a credit card. Online shopping.

If you’ve decided to use credit cards to do holiday shopping, one of the worst things you can do is neglect to have a payoff plan in place once the holidays are over. According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales are expected to increase 3.6% in November and December to $655.8 billion, which is a significant increase over the 10 year average of 2.5 percent. That means most holiday shoppers will be using their credit cards in lieu of cash.

Putting a Plan in Place

Creating a viable plan to pay off your credit cards after Christmas isn’t that difficult. All it takes is a little perseverance and willpower to switch from holiday mode to realistic spender. Here are a few tips:

Stop using your credit cards

You can’t successfully pay off your credit cards if you don’t stop charging on them. Make sure you put the cards away after holiday spending and determine how much you can pay to get those balances down quickly.

Have the cash to pay the bill

One of the fastest ways to pay off your credit cards after Christmas is to have the cash to immediately pay the bill when it comes. Using your cards as a method of convenience to keep a running tally of your purchases makes sense when reconciling how much you spend, and having the cash to pay off those bills when they come in is a smart way to keep your expenses in check.

Prioritize

Look at the APR on your cards and the balances they carry. There are a number of ways to prioritize getting rid of that debt. To motivate yourself, you could pay off the card with the smallest balance first and apply that payment and additional payments to the next card, and so forth. You could also pay the minimum on the cards with the smaller balances and put the larger payments toward the card with the highest APR.

Don’t put yourself in a situation where you are still paying off your debt when the next holiday season rolls around. Use a cost calculator to figure out the real cost of your holiday purchases when using your credit cards to give you a realistic picture of what NOT to do in the coming year. Keeping a lot of holiday debt can drastically affect your credit score, hindering you from other things throughout the year.

If you find yourself in a bind after the holiday season, consult a financial planner to help get you back on the right track. Having a plan to keep your financial house in order will help maintain your finances and your sanity throughout the holidays.