Here’s something to add to your holiday to-do list: Protect your credit score. You already have a lot on your mind — gift shopping, decorating, menu planning, event scheduling, carol singing, cookie baking and snowball-fight strategizing — but don’t worry, credit maintenance won’t eat up much of your time. Here are three tips to keep your credit as high as your spirits.
Budget your holiday spending to stay out of the red
If you don’t want your financials to be as red as Rudolph’s nose, you need to control your holiday spending. Between gifts, food, decor and travel, you could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars not normally in your monthly budget. If you haven’t saved up for this occasion, you’ll need to cut back on your other expenses to avoid going into debt.
While it’s tempting to carry a little credit card debt to buy the perfect gift for your spouse or upgrade your flight home for extra legroom, resist the impulse. Carrying credit card debt into the new year isn’t conducive to the fresh start of new year promises. If your budget is tight this year, your family will understand that you can’t splurge on their gifts. Make a realistic budget and stick to it.
Your bills are due, even during the most wonderful time of the year
Between planning holiday dinners and trying not to break your neck putting up lights, it’s easy to let other things slip. Unfortunately, your creditors and utility furnishers expect to be paid every month of the year. Late payments could result in fees, penalty rates and dings to your credit, so it’s crucial not to neglect your bills.
Set up automatic payments wherever possible to avoid missing payments. If your furnisher doesn’t have an option for automatic payments, set a reminder on your phone or write down your due date somewhere you’ll see it regularly. You can also choose to pay all of your bills early, so you can spend the holidays stress-free — at least from a financial perspective.
There’s no time like the holly jolly present to pull your credit reports
If you haven’t pulled your credit reports in the last 12 months, take a break from the holiday merriment to check them out. Sounds like a downer, we know, but this is likely the only thing you’ll get for free this time of year.
Go to AnnualCreditReport.com and enter your personal information to get your reports from the three major credit bureaus. Read your reports and dispute any errors you find — getting these discrepancies resolved could potentially improve your credit score. Is there a better gift you could get yourself this Christmas? Probably, but good credit is nice, too.
The takeaway: Keep your credit in shape this holiday season by budgeting your holiday expenses, paying your bills on time and pulling your credit reports if you haven’t yet done so. Have a happy holiday season, full of glad tidings of good credit.
Pile of holiday gifts image via Shutterstock