(from Chandni Thakkar, our Bronx Branch Manager)

Building credit. It’s probably not top of mind for you during this busy holiday month. But in fact, we think the holidays can be one of the best times for you to consider and build your credit score. Why? Because as you’re spending more than usual—most of us using credit cards to cover the eggnog, presents for our significant others and airfare to see grandma—you’re either making a positive or negative impact on your credit score.

Here are 3 tips to help you manage your use of your credit cards and even build your credit this holiday season:

Pay Off Small Debts First. Before you start to spend this holiday, pay off those $500, $750 or even $1000 credit balances. They are a nuisance to your credit. As soon as you can pay them off, you will see a positive impact on your credit score—and create spending space for the five white elephant gifts you need to buy for your holiday parties.

Negotiate Your Balance and Interest Rates: Before your debt becomes overwhelming or goes into collections, credit card companies will often work with you to lower interest or even knock off some of your total balance. They want to keep your business. If they lose your payments because they go into collections, they lose a lot of money. They will avoid this at all costs meaning this may result in a lower payment for you.

Freeze Your Credit Card. If you’re nervous about sticking to your holiday budget—and feel an anxious pit creep into your stomach as you think about how “future you” will feel at the end of January as the credit card bills start to roll in—then hide or cut up your credit cards. Don’t use them. You can even call your credit card company and request to freeze your cards. You will still owe their balances and will no longer have access to this line of credit but you will eliminate your ability to use them for further spending.

Taking control of your debt and managing your credit cards during the holiday season will liberate you for a financially healthy 2018. It doesn’t have to be the biggest spending time of the year for it to be the most joyful. In whatever ways or traditions you celebrate, we wish you and your family a very happy and financially healthy holiday season!