The season of giving, getting, and spending is here. With holidays sales abound and wish lists in hand, you’ll find plenty of tempting reasons to spend. As you reach for your credit card this holiday season, keep the following tips in mind.
Budget Spending First
Before you spend a cent, take a few minutes to consider what your total spending should look like. After all of your regular and recurring expenses are accounted for, how much disposable income do you have to work with? Once you find that, you can decide how much of that you should spend on purchasing gifts. Don’t forget to consider any costs for shipping or gas.
Don’t Overspend to Impress
Sometimes spreading holiday cheer feels synonymous with spending lots of money. Being a great gift-giver doesn’t have to break the bank! Try making custom gifts for your friends and family or finding thoughtful, inexpensive gifts that reflect their personalities. It’s the thought that counts, after all!
Use Only One or Two Cards
In an effort to get the best rewards, you might be tempted to use several different credit cards for your purchases, but tracking how much you spend in total can be hard if you’re looking at individual card amounts. Stick to one or two credit cards to make it easier to track your spending.
Watch for Fraud When Shopping Online
In your search for the best gift or the lowest price, you might stumble upon websites you’ve never heard of. As tempting as the deal might be, making a purchase on an unfamiliar website could lead to your information being stolen. No matter what website you’re on, be sure the web address always starts with “https” and not just “http.” The “s” at the end means your connection is secure. You can also look for a lock icon next to the web address.
Pause Before Applying to Store Cards
Some stores and online retailers offer their own credit card to customers. These cards frequently come with special offers like 30% off your first purchase. You may think these are easy ways to save money, but that’s only on the surface. Look closer, and you’ll see that each credit card you sign up for will trigger a hard inquiry on your credit history. These inquiries may have a negative impact on your credit score, making it harder to take out credit in the future.
Watch for Fraudulent Charges
With all the spending that happens during the holidays, it’s easy for thieves to sneak fraudulent charges onto other peoples’ cards and never be noticed. Keep checking on your transaction history and report anything that looks unfamiliar to your card issuer.
Pay the Balance Immediately
Not paying your balance by the time it’s due can lead to late fees. Even if you make a timely minimum payment, you’ll still be charged interest on whatever’s left on the card. Pay as much of your balance as you can so you get the benefits of using a credit card and not the drawbacks.