11/24/2012 04:16 pm ET

The Countdown Is On! How to Get Ready for Christmas Without Hurting Your Credit Score

On Sunday, November 25th, it's officially one month until Christmas. Halloween and the election and Thanksgiving and Black Friday are over and now everyone's mind is starting to think about Santa and candy canes and those little Christmas countdown calendars where you opened up a numbered cardboard window to get a piece of chocolate.

It's the season when we need to be extra diligent with how we handle our credit so that we don't hurt our credit scores. I've seen more than one credit-conscious client devote 11 months of the year to great credit habits and then turn into some kind of Christmas monster in December. That's not necessarily a bad thing -- unless (like those clients I just mentioned) you end up paying for Christmas for months to come.

I'm not being the Grinch and trying to steal your Christmas! Instead, I want you to have a great Christmas this year AND I want you to have a great Christmas next year. Your decisions in the next 30 days might require a few months to pay back but the effect on your credit report will linger even longer -- by as much as a year or more.

If you finish December with your credit cards at only 20 percent of their maximum limit, you've given yourself a gift that will keep on giving all year long -- in the form of good credit for approved loans and lower interest rates.

So here are some suggestions for you to help you give yourself the gift of good credit.

If you have a monthly budget, consider creating a special occasion "Christmas budget" to make sure that your credit cards get paid down quickly this month or after Christmas. We all know how easy it is to get spend-happy at this time of year. So an extra layer of diligence to keep those credit cards down is a good idea.

As your mailbox fills up with cards, and your social calendar fills up with holiday commitments, it can be easy to put aside bills -- and then completely forget about them. Unpaid bills (even some utility bills) are reported to your credit report. Handle them as soon as you get them and keep them from hurting your credit further.

The next 30 days are going to be a whirlwind of fun, festivities, family, and rum-laced eggnog. And you can make it an even better season (and you can ensure that 2013 will be a great year for your family) by watching how you manage your credit to ensure that your credit score has as much of a Merry Christmas as you do!

Do you have a credit questions? Please email me