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As the holidays quickly approach and glimmers of sugarplums begin to dance in our heads, a wintry sparkle descends upon the eyes, hearts, and spending habits of us all. We dive face first into excitement fueled by bow topped gifts, festive shopping malls, and holiday delight – only to leave behind the pragmatic spending habits we’ve carefully adhered to and abided by the whole year through. In the spirit of the season, here are a few guidelines to ensure you start the New Year off right — and debt hangover free.

Tip 1: Don’t charge more than you can pay off

It’s easy to go a little wild during the holidays — that leather jacket for Mom, a golf club for Dad, a trip for the kids, a new bike for…you get the idea. ‘Tis the season to give after all. Every swipe and chip read though makes every purchase easier to rationalize and the implications of those mounting bills easier to put off to the end of this billing cycle…or the next one. Getting credit card bills you can’t pay off at the end of the month leaves you with making the minimum payment- and so the debt hangover begins. Paying interest on said credit card balances is akin to drinking too much eggnog at the company holiday party in December, and having a pounding headache until April. Research shows that even ‘sale’ items cost up to 300% more when you end up charging it and then pay the minimum. Don’t be this person. It’s a complete waste of time, your stress, and of your hard earned dollar bills! The magic of the holidays lies in the spirit, not in the cashmere — so take a few minutes, map your spending plan, and think about your finances rationally. It’s not monopoly money after all.

Tip 2: Don’t open up a credit card for short term rewards

Retailers love this. ‘Open up a credit card with <insert store here> today and save 20%/get more than $300 in cash back/X number of super valuable points’. Sound familiar? Certainly credit cards are excellent tools in our financial lives – but be wary of not only the number you open, but the reasons why. While many credit card point programs can be very lucrative – short term department store versions tend to, well, not be. They often come with very high interest rates. For example, if you sign up for a credit card that offers you 10% off $150 leather boots and you carry a $150 balance for just one month, you’ll be immediately giving back at least that $15 savings. Further, each new credit account has the potential to ding your credit score.

Tip 3: Don’t forget to pay your bills come month’s end

From travel and family get-togethers, to New Year’s plans and beyond, most of us are pretty hectic around the holidays. This puts all of us in a perfect position to, you guessed it, miss our bill payment deadlines. While autopay is certainly an option, if you really want to have a grasp on your money in: money out ratio, it’s probably a better idea to set a reminder or to-do and make sure this time is blocked in your calendar. This way, you’re ready and set to start your New Year off right, debt free, and ready to take on 2018.

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