Holiday, Vacation & Weekend
4 Principles to
Follow to Avoid Credit Card Debt During the Holiday
The holiday season has arrived. It is time to celebrate, make merry, and have fun. Travel plans have been made, lists of gifts for family and friends have been drawn up, and arrangements for parties are in full gear. It is indeed the season to be jolly, but also the season when spending runs wild.
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Business people usually cash in on the holiday seasons to maximize their sales and profits. It will be high season for them. They will stock up, price up and smile all the way to the bank. They know that people will be less restrained in their suspending than at any other time. It possible that you may be among the many who have suffered post-holiday season financial stress, and want to make sure it does not happen again. Your success in this will be determined by how well you control three critical factors: your increased rate of spending, the manner in which you finance that spending, and the heavy financial demands that follow in the subsequent month.
Financing Using Plastic
With holidays like Christmas or the New Year seeming to come round too quickly, people often find they have not saved up enough for their celebrations. Moreover, budgeting is an alien concept during this and spending can spiral out of control. To cover the inevitable shortfall in resources, the credit card is an obvious attraction. There are advantages to using the card to finance your expenditure:
i) It gives you free access to about a month’s credit.
ii) It gives you the temporary ability to spend beyond your current means.
iii) It allows you to track your expenditure.
iv) You do not have to carry lots of cash around with you.
Use of credit card, how ever, does carry with it significant dangers if it is not carefully controlled. Research indicates that spending could increase by up to 35% when using a credit card compared with using cash. Here are some key principles to help you guard against running into credit card debt trouble.
1. Spending Plan
If your spending is going to exceed your income for the festive month, consider cutting intended festive expenses, or other expenses, to stay within your income. I am assuming you have drawn up your spending plan for that period. That’s where a credit card comes to the rescue. Though not readily apparent, the use of your credit card can create distortions in the management of your finances. Unless you are monitoring your spending in both cash and credit, there is a danger that you will be uncertain whether or not you are living within your means. It would therefore be unwise to begin using a credit card if you are not in control of your finances, that means using a spending plan.
2. Debt to Income Ratio
Do not forget that use of your credit card adds to your indebtness. In managing your financial affairs, one of the key indicators to watch is your debt-income ratio. This is monthly debt repayment as a percentage of your monthly after-tax income, and raises a red flag when you tinker with too much debt. A ratio of over 20% is becoming unhealthy. If you already have credit card debt that is overdue, do not add to it.
3. Bridging Finance
Use of a credit card is ideally a means of short- term financing of your operations. That means settling any debt incurred using your card within days. Paying the minimum balance will not do. If you are not confident that you can pay it off in full, you wound do yourself a huge favor by not using a credit card. Should you decide to go ahead and use a card, you need to be prepared for extra costs in interest and penalties associated with extended credit. This adds to your expenses, and you need to be ready to be ready to reduce other regular expense to accommodate this, otherwise you run the risk of creating ongoing hard-core debt
4. Net Worth
Credit card debt incurred during the festive season is usually for consumer spending- paying for your holiday, buying gifts, entertainment, traveling expenses, etc and creates what is known as consumer debt. This kind of debt adds to your liabilities, but contributes nothing to your assets. Your net worth is reduced to the extent of consumer debt incurred. Shrinking net worth is not good for your financial health. So do have yourself a happy holiday. But as you go about it, finance it in a way that gives you the comfort that you won't be debt-laden the following month.
5 Things To Protect
Your Credit Score This Holiday Season
Protect your good credit rating, or learn what to avoid to improve your credit with these 5 important tips to protecting your credit score.
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1. Avoid Department Store Offers for Instant Credit and Don't Open Up New Lines of Credit
"Would you like to save 10% today on your purchase today?". We have all been asked that question when paying for our purchases. Every store under the sun would like to offer you their own credit card. This is not good for your score. The damage to your score you'll incur by opening up a new line of credit is just not worth the few dollars you might save. Department score credit is poor quality credit and the credit scoring system frowns on it. Just don't apply for the card. You may want or need to apply for a new car loan, a new home loan, a re-finance a home loan. By applying for store credit to save a couple of dollars, you could be hurting your chance of getting an important loan at a good rate until the middle of next year.
2. Avoid Overspending
Spending affects credit. 30% of your credit score is made up of how you manage your debt, and when your credit card balances exceed 30% of their available limit, the credit scoring system red flags you and your score goes down instantly. The logic behind this is that if you suddenly max out your credit cards, it looks to the system as though you are in financial trouble. Only charge if you can pay the balance in full before the next statement date. Plus, overspending and overcharging will also cause you to carry larger balances longer. It is best to keep your balances low at all times.
3. Pay Your Bills On Time
Payment history is 35% of your credit score. One 30-day late can cost you 50 points or more. December is traditionally the busiest time of the year. Active calendars filled with work and social commitments for family and friends and the frenzy of the season can preoccupy you and cause you to be late in paying your bills. Make staying on top of your bills a priority. Put all of your bills in a file and make sure you pay them on time. In doing so, you will save points on your credit score and ridiculous late charges as much as $39 or more. Additionally, when you are late in paying your bills, you nullify any preferential finance rate and your account will default to a dramatically higher interest rate. A ding to your credit score, a high late fee, and a huge increase in interest rates are all big incentives to make sure you are on time with your bills. I recently got a call from a customer who had been late, but not 30 days late and the rate jumped on his card to over 30% annually!
4. Take the Time to Plan and Prepare Your Gift Giving
We all do it. We walk into a store ready to buy a specific item and end up getting lured into a spending vortex. Panic spending because the store does not have the item you went in to buy; deciding that if you buy this item for this person, then you have to buy this item for another person; succumbing to the temptation of the latest must-have gadget. You can prevent this well-woven retailer trap by doing your research online. By preparing before you even darken the automatic doorstep of the alluring retail establishment, you can determine where you can purchase specific items and for what price. In doing so, you can avoid the retail traps and retain control of your spending (and your sanity). Online shopping sites have grown tremendously in popularity. Traffic to those sites is up more than 30% from just last year. There is a wealth of information on the web. In fact, www.pricegrabber.com lists all of the hottest holiday items and tells you who sells them and for how much. Remember, if you pay your credit card bill prior to the statement date, it will help your scores. www.froogle.com is another great site to find the item for less.
5. Manage Your Credit Wisely
Keep track of your credit card balances and keep them as low as possible. Studies show that as consumers increase their credit card balances, they become increasingly apathetic about their balances and even about adding new debt. By tracking balances, you will maintain a sense of control over your credit score and your finances. Write out a chart of who you owe, how much you owe, and what the minimum payment is. It will help you to get a handle on your bills, and help start planning how to pay them off.
Climbing Out From
Holiday Credit Card Debt
Every year you plan to avoid the credit card fiasco, and even make a wholehearted attempt to purchase all of your holiday gifts with cash. If you’re reading this article, chances are you ended up using your credit cards more than intended! Don’t despair though; there are some tried and true methods of fixing your holiday credit card slump that you can put into action right away. Here are some strategies to climb out from underneath the holiday credit card slump- and help you ...
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Every year you plan to avoid the credit card fiasco, and even make a wholehearted attempt to purchase all of your holiday gifts with cash. If you’re reading this article, chances are you ended up using your credit cards more than intended! Don’t despair though; there are some tried and true methods of fixing your holiday credit card slump that you can put into action right away. Here are some strategies to climb out from underneath the holiday credit card slump- and help you pay off those purchases quickly so you aren’t still paying for them by the time the holiday season rolls around again next year.
Use Introductory Offers to Your Advantage
After the holidays many credit card companies release special introductory rates to entice new customers to apply for their cards. If you can find one that offers 0% interest on balance transfers for a year, you’re in! You can transfer your holiday debt from the various cards that you used, and pay it off without hefty interest rates. Another benefit of this technique is the fact that you’ll have a single payment even if you had used several credit cards for holiday shopping. Once you combine all of them on the new 0% balance transfer credit card, you’ve got a single, monthly payment! (You might consider closing some of your other credit cards).
If you are unable to find a 0% interest rate on balance transfers for twelve months, you might be able to find a six month introductory offer. This is still worth the time and effort to transfer your balances as you can work to pay them off before the six months is up (or at the end of the six months move the balance to a new card with a 0% balance transfer offer!)
Credit Card Checks
If you don’t qualify for a 0% interest introductory balance transfer offer, you could consider using the checks that often come with your credit cards. (Sometimes you have to request them from your credit card company). While the interest rate might not be zero, and it may not be any lower than the card that offers the credit card checks to you- if you have balances on several credit cards, writing a check to pay off each card means you would only have a single monthly payment. In the long run, you would save immensely on interest and finance charges by having a single account. In addition, paying on a single account instead of three or four (or more!) will help you pay off the outstanding balance much faster.
Request Lower Rates
In some cases, credit card companies are able to lower your interest rate just because you’ve asked them to! It certainly doesn’t hurt anything to pick up the phone and call your credit card company’s customer service line to request a lower interest rate. When you’ve gone overboard with your holiday spending, you can really save on the total amount you end up repaying just by having a lower interest rate.
Get A New Card
Ideally, you will want a card that will allow you to move all of your other credit card balances onto, and at a 0% balance transfer rate. There are times when you can’t get approved for the best offers, or times when you just have more outstanding debt than the offer allows you to transfer.
If this happens to you, you might consider getting a new credit card that will allow you to transfer your entire debt from all of your other cards, and one that has a reasonable interest rate on the transferred balances, so that you can start making a single monthly payment rather than several.