For many of us, fall is a favorite time of year: The kids are in school, the leaves are falling from the trees, the festive season is just around the corner, and comforting smells like pumpkin and cloves and turkey fill the house.
You and I might revel in the crisp autumn weather, but your credit score hates this time of year.
The reason? Starting in October and continuing through the next 90 days, many households dramatically increase their spending: Halloween requires candy and decorations and costumes (and, probably more candy if you ate the first batch); Thanksgiving requires turkey and all the fixings (and maybe more candy); Black Friday is a spend-happy time to get great deals on gifts (and on the things you’ve been wanting to buy all year); Christmas requires gifts, stockings and more.
Those are just the “regular” days that most people celebrate. If your family has a birthday or celebrates other social or religious holidays during this time, it increases spending even more. Your expenses might also rise this time of year as you run your furnace, put winter tires on the car, and book a vacation to a warmer climate. October through December is 90 days of fun, festivity, candy and turkey – it’s also 90 days of spending.
If you’re not paying cash for everything, credit cards are the easiest way to spend during this season.
There’s also another reason that your credit score hates this season: Everyone is so busy with special events and pageants and banquets and holiday parties that we tend to put a lot of our good habits on hold — including the good habit of focusing on maintaining and boosting our credit scores.
By the time January rolls around, we realize that we need to tack “Rebuild credit” onto our New Year Resolutions — somewhere between “Lose the holiday weight” and “Eat less candy.”
Fortunately, your credit doesn’t have to suffer this season. Along with adopting careful spending habits, make sure you follow these simple tips to ensure that your credit has a festive season too:
- Carefully use your credit cards to keep those accounts active but never put more onto your card than you can afford to pay off.
- Schedule time to work on your credit score and stick to your schedule! (Why not achieve two goals at once? For every candy you steal from the Halloween bowl by the door, you need to spend an extra 5 minutes working on your credit score).
- Remember that even small credit decisions you make now now can have big repercussions in the new year.
This is a time of year that many people look forward to, but it’s too easy to put the responsibility of working on our credit until later. Resist the temptation of ignoring your credit for the rest of 2012, and you’ll give yourself a gift that will reward you all year long next year!
Image: joe goldberg, via Flickr