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OK, so you didn't use cash after all but, rather, maxed out credit cards to purchase holiday gifts.

Guess what? Those bills are now due and you're racing towards a hissy fit; instead, follow these suggestions to pay off "present" (pun intended) debt in record time.

1. Use Christmas cash. If Great Aunt Thelma wrote you a check for $500, don't go out and blow it. Preferably, pay off gift-giving bills with the windfall (and don't forget to write Auntie a timely thank you note).

2. Check Claritymoney.com, among other apps. This free "financial advisor" goodie helps find discounts in a variety of ways: lowers bills, alerts to paid subscriptions that you never utilize (i.e. monthly Spotify $9.99 or that $14 gym membership), helps us stick to budgets, and saves toward a goal. (The latter can again be paying off holiday debt or, perhaps, saving for an exciting summer vacation.)

3. Schedule a payoff date. Today is January 12th. Depending upon the amount of your Christmas or Hannukah balance, set a date to pay off the remainder – perhaps six months from now. By doing so, we understand just how much we must put toward the rest each payday and also understand no more non-emergency purchases until the prior damage is paid.

4. Watch what goes in your stomach. Expensive power lunches, less expensive Panera-types, or even fast food like Mickey D's all add up. Far cheaper (and healthier) is to eat at home as much as possible and, also, to brown bag for work. Hold on to the savings to pay on that December liability.

5. Pay twice a month. For those of us minimum-a-month payers, it's astonishing what we save on interest by paying this same lowest amount but, instead, dividing the payment in half and paying that half twice monthly.

6. Start "trim"ming. A free mobile app, Trim can help save money. Link it up to your credit card or bank account and it will then start scanning for recurring subscriptions no longer in use. Once it finds them, it can then cancel them for you or, in some cases, even negotiate a lower cable or telephone bill on your behalf!

7. Start roving. Make a little extra money watching traveling folks' furbabies. If you'd prefer not to pet sit, however, you can also score some funds as a dog walker – sparing elderly pet-owners the cold or even give dogs the attention which busy owners can't. (Check out Rover.com.)

8. Hello, eBay! The eBay site is another great way to make money by selling unwanted items – or by scoring hot items to then flip for a higher price. These tried-and-true practices are only a few easy moneymakers; with a bit of self-study, readers can discover even more techniques to pay off those upsetting holiday bills.

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Ellen Phillips

Contact Ellen Phillips at consumerwatch@timesfreepress.com.

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