The holidays are often a time where caution is thrown to the wind and money is spent to ensure happy memories. If you are anything like the average American family, you likely spent somewhere between $500-$1,500 on gifts this holiday season. Now that the holidays are over and the particles of wrapping paper dust have settled on the receipts, it’s time to get serious about your plan to dig out of debt.

Most Americans carry several thousand dollars of credit card debt- not considering mortgage, student loan or vehicle debt. Experts say if only the minimum payments are made, it would take the average American 23 years to pay off their credit cards.

5 things you must do to get out of debt

· Save every penny. In the same way that every bite you take in a diet matters, every penny matters. Scrounge and save as much as you possibly can. Is it fun? No. Is it going to add up? Yes.

· Make or revise your budget. You may already have a budget, but it may need revision considering your new holiday debt. Cut out every expense possible.

· Stop borrowing money. As much as you can possibly avoid it, stop borrowing. The cost of borrowing money is so high that it can be impossible to pay back.

· Know your interest rates. Many of us have multiple credit cards. Finding out the interest rates on each can be a challenge because it’s not information that the credit card companies want you to know. Once you find out the interest rates of your various cards, rank them from highest to lowest. Make your minimum payments on the lowest cards and pay the most you can on your highest card. Do this until it’s paid off.

· Make it a game. Saving money can be fun if you have the right attitude. In states like Wisconsin, there are many free activities to take advantage of. If you have a smart phone, a wide variety of apps are available to help you save money.

When a person has more debt than they feel they can handle, getting it under control can feel hopeless. It’s important to remind yourself that debt happens to everyone at every income level. Instead of beating yourself up or throwing in the towel, it’s important that you get help so you can take back control of your life.