Black Friday doesn’t have to lead to black marks on your credit report.

The holiday shopping season is well underway.  We’d like to offer tips to manage holiday spending and avoid a post-holiday credit hangover.

Consumers spreading holiday cheer should keep in mind that January bills are only a couple of months away. If consumers are not budgeting for their holiday purchases, people will find themselves bringing in the New Year with last year’s debt. This isn’t a good step to take if your goal is to save.

First Bank recommends that clients manage their finances this holiday season with the following spending tips:

• Create a budget and stick to it. Set a dollar amount based on what you can afford this holiday season considering your current savings, income and other expenses. Be sure to include a $20 to $100 cushion for unexpected expenses.

• Make a list. Santa isn’t the only one who needs a list! Write down the names of the people you plan to buy gifts for and how much you can afford to spend on each person. Don’t forget to save some of your budget for expenses other than gifts including wrapping paper, cards, and postage.

• Bake some cookies. That’s right, if you can’t afford to buy gifts for everyone on your list, bake some holiday goodies and wrap them in cellophane with a holiday bow. Handmade gifts are a special way to say ‘Happy Holidays’ without overspending. Be sure to include these costs in your budget.

• Use credit wisely. Your credit card balance shouldn’t be a complete surprise when you open your statement in January. Take your debit card and only the credit cards you need when holiday shopping. Just be sure to keep these purchases within your budget.

• Save your receipts. Keep track of your expenses and add them up weekly to be sure you’re sticking to your budget. If you’re getting close to your spending limit, re-evaluate your list and bake more cookies!

• Do your homework and shop around. Start your holiday shopping early to give yourself time to comparison shop. Take time to do some research before you hit the stores by going online or looking at your local newspaper circulars.

Holding true to one’s budget during the busy holiday season is an excellent jumpstart to healthy budgeting habits.

Anyone who falls deep in debt and is late on their payments should inform creditors so they can work on a resolution plan with you. Banks and other lenders are often willing to help with payment terms, consolidate debts, or assist in refinancing. 

A pattern of late payments in a credit report could make attaining future loans or credit difficult. Consumers in need of help with debt problems should contact the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at www.nfcc.org or 1-800-388-2227.