The festive twinkle lights and sweet scent of peppermint cocoa can only mean two things: the holidays are here, and so are the added expenses! Although most of us enjoy the memorable moments, piles of presents, and tasty, “top secret,” family recipes – we dread the extra cost. Don’t get stuck in the holiday expense rut again! This year, plan ahead with the following 5 tips to keep your budget as blissful as the holiday season.

1. Pay your bills BEFORE you shop.

Always pay for rent, utilities, groceries and whatever other bills you already owe first. Once you subtract these costs, you will know how much you can comfortably spend on holiday gifts, dinners and activities.

2. Make a list. Check it twice.

Write down each person you plan to buy for this year and assign a set amount that you are comfortable spending on them. From there, look-up gifts that fit within that budget range. To make it easy, start online before you head into a store. Online shops typically allow you to search for items in your specific price range to prevent overspending. Compare prices from a few different vendors and always search for coupons codes and discounts before you make a purchase.

3. Consolidate debt.

Whether it’s credit card debt, student debt or even a mortgage, always stay on top on your payments. If you can’t afford your payments, whatever you do, don’t default! A default could ruin your credit and may even lead to wage garnishments.  Instead, find out if lower payment could be available through a consolidation. When it comes to student loan debt – some plans, such as an IDR, will take your income, family size and few other personal factors into consideration to determine what your monthly payments will be. If you need help finding out which plans are available to you, Docupop could help you find and accurately file for the best plan to fit your needs.

4. Choose your payment method wisely.

If you have a rewards based credit card, the holiday season is great way to rack up more points – IF you use it responsibly.  For best financial results, always pay your bills in-full and on-time. If overspending is a bit of an issue, try using cash when impulse buys are too close for comfort during the massive holiday sales.  Take only the amount you know you can spend.  When the cash is gone, so is your shopping spree the for day.

5. Watch out for store card overload!

Overspending and over eagerness to cash in on those 15% off store cards can potentially hurt your credit for months or even years! If you shop at a store on a regular basis, and if payments are not an issue for you, a store card discount may be beneficial. With that said, going overboard on this practice – or not being responsible with your bills can really damage your credit score. If you only shop there occasionally; or if you have several store cards piled up already – it may not be wise to sign up for more. A 15% or 20% discount could end up costing you more than you may have bargained for if you can’t keep up with your payments – or get too many, too fast. If you’d like to learn more about best credit practices – or if a higher score is on your holiday wish list, the knowledgeable credit crew members at ScoreShuttle may be able to help.

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