When it comes to holiday spending, keeping a handle on credit card debt is an important part of stewarding a strong financial foundation all year round. If you plan to break out the credit cards for the most wonderful time of the year, here are a few tips that will help keep it that way.
Make a Holiday-Spending Budget
Take a tally of what you plan to spend during the holiday season – not just for gifts, but include the extra times you swipe for fun holiday food and parties. Combine this seasonal budget with your overall household budget so you can manage your spending realistically throughout the entire year.
Don’t let those family pressures or the kids’ sugar-plumb-fairy faces distract you from your budget plans and guilt you into spending more than you can afford.
Need a hand with your budget planning? Check out this FREE budgeting workbook from ECCU!
Now That You Have a Budget – Stick to It.
This starts with only charging as much as you can afford to pay off before the end of the year. It’s easy to quietly extend your deadline further than January, but be careful, as it can easily sneak into July.
Part of sticking to the budget is preparing in advance to pay more than the minimum. Set aside some extra savings to pay off your Christmas balance within your budgeted schedule. You’ll save money, and get one extra gift—a positive impact on your credit score.
Take a Close Look at Your Cards, and Take Advantage of Cash Back Rewards
If you start shopping and swiping without a plan, you’re asking for trouble. Not only could you miss out on valuable cash-back offers on one card, but you could pay steep fees if you exceed your spending limit on another.
Take stock of your cards, determine the card with the highest value, and stick with it for the season.
If you’ve got a cash-back card, and you can pay it off quickly, it may be a great way to knock 1%-5% off every purchase. It may not seem like a lot per order, but the savings adds up fast.
If you’re using a card that doesn’t include a rewards program, what are you waiting for? ECCU offers a great option for cash-back credit card savings.
Activate Your Account Alerts
Identity thieves love the holidays as much as you do. With increased credit card spending, there’s more chance for mistakes and overlooked fraudulent transactions. Online account alerts are an easy way to keep tabs on your accounts.
You decide what limits to set and what information you want to receive. If there are any signs of foul play, such as out-of-the-ordinary activity, or over-limit purchases, you’ll receive a real-time text or email alert form your credit card servicer.
Don’t have alerts set up? ECCU Members receive FREE alerts anytime, anywhere, sent directly to your phone or email. Learn more about the ECCU Online and Mobile app.
This holiday season, you can help keep both your stress level and balances down. With all the distractions and tempting offers bombarding you, remember this simple tip: Don’t charge what you can’t afford.