More often than not, the holidays can lead to a ballooning of your budget. The abundance of gifts for your loved ones, the multiple holiday parties filling your calendars, and all of the food and drink to be enjoyed—often times our poor credit cards bear the brunt of the joy of the season! But fear not, the New Year fast approaches, and we have a few keen tips for folks resolving to protect their credit in 2016.
Here are some helpful ways you can responsibly manage your financial well-being.
Educate Yourself on the Essentials: Credit should not be a mystery. Invest some time in learning about the basics of how credit works, how your creditors calculate their rates, what factors most influence your score, and how that impacts your standard of living. Obtain copies of your credit score from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian) and learn about the various terms, categories, and metrics they use to quantify their result. And become well-informed about fraud basics and ways to protect your identity and credit. Knowledge is power!
Review the Calendar: Sometimes the most difficult challenge is tracking what’s due when. Payment delinquency can be the fastest way to damage your credit score. Statement close dates, billing dates, payment dates—they can all blur together, especially with multiple accounts. Draft a schedule of your debts and their due dates, which should be built in conjunction with…
A Budget That Works for You: Get a good handle on your history. How much have you paid back all ready? How much would you need to wipe out a debt? And how does all of this information coincide with your pay dates? Numbers can seem terrifying when they are thrown at your face. Never hesitate to contact someone at your financial institution. No matter the company, creditors are more than happy to sit down and explain the numbers.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate: Clear, calm communication is critical to financial bliss. If your due dates don’t jive with your pay dates, contact your creditor and see what adjustments can be made. And communication matters in the household, too. Whenever you have a spouse with whom you share an account, a teenager new to spending solo, or a college kid braving the big expensive world, the whole family needs to talk about spending and earning to avoid surprises when the bills arrive.
Try New Things: A new year means a new view on spending! Broaden your mind and reexamine how you’re dropping your money. Pay too much on morning espresso? Wasting money on gasoline? Racking up charges at your favorite department store? We all have guilty pleasures that affect our bottom line. Consider creative affordable alternatives to expensive habits. And when in doubt, you have resources all around you—friends, family, or work colleagues may have clever advice that may surprise you.
Use Tools to Keep You on Track: Consumers have access to more tools than ever before. A few examples of helpful modern services offered by financial institutions include online banking, automatic bill pay, bill reminders, paperless billing, and more. Also, savvy mobile applications such as Mint, Check, and Acorns turn your smartphones into powerful personal financial management solutions.
Columbia Bank has a variety of financial calculators that can help you get started. Whether it's your mortgage or your car, your savings or your debt, or any other budgetary planning needs, click here to find the tools you need to succeed! Every little bit assists in protecting your total credit!
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