The holiday season -- kids love it because they get plenty of surprises under the tree, and parents love to hear the squeals of delight as wrapping paper is ripped from gifts. During this joyous and celebratory season, it's easy to get caught up in the gifts and giving and family and memories...
... But you shouldn't overlook your credit. Credit scores are a measure of your financial health and they influence an increasing number of important factors in your life (such as your ability to get credit, your ability to finance a house or car, your ability to get a job, and more).
And although you might remember to take care of your credit throughout the year, it's this time of year that it's easy to forget about your credit AND it's also the time of year that puts your credit at the greatest risk (because of how much you're shopping).
So here are 4 ways to ensure that your happy holidays are also credit-happy, too!
1. Use all of your credit cards. Yes, even pull out that dusty credit card you rarely use and make sure you use it at a store. The regular use of credit cards is one step in a larger effort toward building and maintaining healthy credit scores. It doesn't matter if you use one credit card more often than others, as long as you use all of your credit regularly and don't let any of them get too "stale."
2. Pay your credit cards in full. This is the hardest part of the holiday season because you're buying so many gifts (and pageant costumes and extra food for those holiday parties) but this is another key part of maintaining healthy credit. So make sure you pay your credit cards in full before the due date.
3. Keep records and receipts. Your credit cards should be used carefully to contribute to your healthy credit. But fraudsters and identity thieves can rip off your identity by stealing your credit card information, ultimately ruining your credit. So make sure you keep good records about the dates and times that you visited a store, what you purchased, and make sure you keep the receipt, too. Double check this record against your bill when it comes in the mail to make sure it's accurate.
4. Check your credit score after the holiday season. Once the dust of the holidays has settled and you are getting back to normal, you should pull your credit score and look at it very carefully. Consider doing this in February or, at the very latest, March, and make sure that the information is accurate and up-to-date.
The holiday season is such a joyous and celebratory time. Be cautious of overspending and adding stress to your life. As author and happiness expert Keryl Pesce says, "Focus on the memories you want to create for years to come. Don't get caught up in believing your self worth lies in how much you spend on others. Create meaningful memories that your family will always remember. Some of them need not cost a dime."
So be aware that now is a time when our credit is at the greatest risk because we're buying more than usual. Pay attention to your credit now and it will pay off for you all year long.