Wrapped presentDo You Hear What I Hear? In September?
by Andrew Johnson

GreenPath Communications Manager

Well, it was inevitable. We all knew it was coming, but I didn't think it would show up so soon. I first heard it this morning, while I was in the kitchen. It was faint, at first, but as I walked towards the corner of the ktichen, it got louder. A sort of rhythmic, bell-like sound. It was familiar, but it just seemed too early to be hearing it just yet. But, as I got closer, I confirmed my wildest fears: it was the first TV holiday commercial of the season! At the end of September...

As I said, we knew it was coming. Certain radio stations take the plunge some time shortly after Halloween, with questions of "Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?" and visions of "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire." But, when the weather is just trying to disengage from its hot summer mode, it really does seem too early to be thinking about the holidays.

However, seeing I brought it up, let's tear off the wrapping paper and discuss some productive ways to ease your way, financially, into holiday mode.

1. Save - If you haven't started setting aside some cash for holiday presents and parties, you can still get going! Putting away $20 a week, in a separate account, will mean more than $200 by mid-December. Keeping that amount off your credit card, will have you celebrating a bit more of a happy new year, when holiday bills start filling your inbox and mailbox!

2. Review your credit report - If you are a shopper, who uses a credit card either online or in line at the mall, a review of your credit report is mandatory! Do you know you get a free copy of your credit report from each of the three reporting bureaus each year? If you haven't pulled one at all this year, request all three today at www.annualcreditreport.com. The report serves as your own history of everything credit.

The main thing you are looking for is validating all the information and accounts on the report. Watch for any red flags, like accounts opened in your name that aren't yours, addresses that you've never lived at, or variations of your name on accounts. It really is up to you to make sure your credit stays in good standing! Reviewing your credit report is a good first step!

3. Build a holiday budget - Set limitations on gift-giving and entertaining. As the music fills the air early each holiday shopping season, so do the sales. Black Friday is not the traditional start of the shopping season anymore. Decide how much you'll spend on everyone and remember, it's really the memories that count around the holidays, not just what we buy!  Watch sales online and in the stores, to see if you can snag some good deals now. Also, by spreading out spending over a couple of months, versus a few weeks, will lessen the impact, when the bills come in.

So, stay focused, take a deep breath and don't panic! We still have a little ways to go until the holidays, but by planning ahead, and mapping your path to success, will help lessen your stress and make the holidays merry and bright!

(Questions about your credit report or budgeting? GreenPath Financial Wellness experts can help! Call us at (800) 550-1961.)