Everyone knows how stressful the holidays can be. From Thanksgiving throughout the holiday season, it’s a lot of work to balance all the prep work that goes into family and social gatherings. Whether you’re traveling or hosting at home, the last thing you want to worry about is how those busy times will affect your credit health. Here are some credit tips to help you stay worry-free throughout the season.
Know Where You Stand
It’s important to begin the holiday shopping season knowing where your credit situation stands. First, pull a copy of your credit report before holiday shopping begins. This can give you a clear picture of where your credit card balances stand. It can also be reassuring to know, if your report’s showing nothing out of the ordinary, that your credit file is showing signs of strange activity that could be the work of fraudsters (and if it does, you’ll know to contact your creditors, the credit bureaus, and possibly the police to help rectify the situation).
Make a Detailed List of Seasonal Expenses
Expenses for Thanksgiving and other holiday events can add up quickly, especially if you don’t have a spending plan in place. Keep spending in check during the holiday season by making a list of expenses tied to holiday gatherings. This should tell you roughly how much money will be coming out of pocket during the season. By estimating these types of holiday expenses before the season begins, you won’t be surprised by your statements at the end of the year. In addition, it will help you remember to be organized when managing your credit at a time when paying off balances and keeping an eye on card limits is essential.
Practice Good Credit Habits
You hear the mantra to keep balances low and pay on time, but it’s easy to lose track of debt, especially if you have multiple cards. Try setting aside money from your paycheck each month to pay down balances like you would a savings account. Treat credit card debt like other recurring expenses and set up automatic transfers from your checking account into a special account that’s only for paying off your cards. That way you will be automatically reducing your debt while you can focus on other things, like how many kinds of pie you’ll get to sample on Turkey Day.
Leverage Your Existing Cards
Those with longstanding cards tend to lose track of the awards and incentives that came coupled with the card to begin with. Look into all those points you’ve been racking up and see if you could use them towards any holiday travel expenses, cash back bonuses or gift cards for future gift-giving. But make sure the redemption option gives you decent value. Generally, at least $.01 per point can make it worth your while. Also consider which retail partnership offers a better return value when it comes to gift card redemption. Your penny-per-point value can vary from store to store, even if you’re using the same point rewards program.