4 Principles to Follow to Avoid Credit Card Debt During the Holiday Seasons
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.
4 Steps to Creating Good Credit
As a consumer you’ve learned the importance of
establishing a good credit rating with your lenders. Whether you are shopping for a new home or auto, or searching for the best deals on insurance, your credit worthiness will be judged by your credit rating or credit score.
A bad credit history or bad credit habits will place “black marks” on your credit profile. These include things such as late payments, having an account assigned to a collection agency, and of course bankruptcy.
Establishing good credit habits and therefore a good credit rating will improve your credit worthiness. This will be reflected in potential lenders offering you substantially lower interest rates and better deals on credit offers.
Here are 4 tips to help you create a shining credit profile:
1) Pay Your Bills On Time
Lenders only have your past payment history on which to decide the type of credit risk you present to them. How you pay off your debts now indicates to them how you will pay off future debts.
2) Don’t Use Too Many or Too Few Credit Cards
How much is too much ? How little is too little ? Many credit experts and financial planners suggest two to four credit cards is just the right mix.
3) Pay At Least The Minimum Due
Always pay at least the minimum due payment, but never less. And remember, just paying the minimum payment means it will take you years and years to pay off that credit card.
Example: Paying off a $2,000 credit payment at 18% APR with a minimum monthly payment of 2% ($40 dollars or less) will take you 30 years to pay off the amount plus interest.
4) Review Your Credit Report Regularly
Monitor your credit report from all three major credit bureaus - Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax - on a regular basis. Check your credit profile at least annually. Review it carefully and make sure that any past mistakes or disputes have been corrected.
Also, if you notice an account listed that you know that you have not personally opened, contact that creditor and the credit bureaus immediately. This could be a sign that you’ve had your identity stolen. Request to have a fraud alert placed on your profile and account to protect yourself and your credit. Identity theft is the fastest growing consumer crime in America, with an estimated 1 million people victimized each year.
Establish good credit habits early in life and reap the benefits that your good credit rating will provide you for the rest of your financial future.