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On the 12 Days of Credit: Tips and Tricks for the Season

Wondering what to get your true love this holiday season? Forget the long lines at the malls and stuffing stockings with gift cards. This year, treat everyone on your list that’s been nice with gifts that give long after the tinsel is tossed. Give your true love the 12 days of credit to make sure everyone’s 2013 starts out on solid financial footing.

Here’s our suggestion for giving the 12 days of Christmas (and a look at why each day is filled with valuable gifts).

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me a fire safe to store my extra cards. (So when they’re not in your wallet, you know your credit cards are secured safely at home, out of harm’s or a burglar’s way.)

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me, mortgage payments made bi-monthly instead of once a month. (To reduce the length of your loan and save thousands in interest, too.)

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a copy of all my credit reports. (Beverly Harzog, a credit expert and consumer advocate suggest reviewing one report every four months instead of all three once a year. That way you can continually keep an eye on things to make sure there’s nothing suspicious, review your score, etc.)

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me quarterly meetings with a financial planner. (Once a year at tax time seems to be the norm. But meeting quarterly is the best way to stay on top of retirement funds and budgeting. It also helps you identity changes you need to make and better reach financial goals.)

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, five personal financial documents. (Everyone should have a will, health care proxy, power of attorney, copy of life insurance policy and financial emergency kit that are all easily accessible in case of family emergency, natural disaster, etc.)

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, six ways to get cash into the savings account and have it stay there.

  1. Save all your loose change and deposit it.
  2. Deposit all your rebates and refund checks or any unexpected checks you receive.
  3. Save 100 percent of your raise by depositing it directly into the savings account.
  4. Sell your junk and deposit the proceeds in an IRA.
  5. Deposit bonus money, don’t plan to spend it.
  6. Don’t use your ATM card with access to your savings account. That makes it harder to pull out money for impulse purchases.

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a reminder to review my budget every 7 days. (You should review finances at least once a week or every 7 days to make sure your on target for the month, make adjustments and say no to things when you’re over budget.)

On the eighth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a reminder to check the balances on my rewards cards. (You might have unused benefits that can help fund a spring break getaway, pay for groceries or to treat your loved one to a fancy dinner on New Years Eve.)

On the ninth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, nine apps that help me save money.

  1. Expensify Easily track your spending with this app that allows you to sync your credit cards and bank accounts so you can follow all of your purchases. 
  2. Grocery IQ This app makes grocery shopping easy and cost-efficient. To assemble your grocery list, scan the barcodes of the products you want at home and the app will generate the list, categorizing the items by food group.
  3. Nest Mobile Helps you control temperature in your home remotely.
  4. ATM Hunter This app pinpoints your location and finds nearby ATMs to help you avoid  paying fees or find ATMs with certain features, such as drive-through access, 24-hour service, or wheelchair accessibility.
  5. CodeGreen Energy App Provides Energy Star ratings for homes.
  6. Light bulb finder Use this to pick out the best energy-efficient light bulb for you to save money on monthly bills.
  7. GasBuddy – Find locations for the cheapest gas prices around)
  8. iTrade Stock Market Simulator If you’re interested in playing the stock market but aren’t sure you’re ready to play with real money, this app lets you manage a $100,000 virtual stock portfolio, enabling you to buy and sell stocks using real-time quotes.
  9. Redlaser An app every shopper should have in their back pocket, this transforms your iPhone’s camera into a barcode scanner to make sure you’re paying the best price possible. It also notifies you of any available coupons.

On the tenth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 10 percent of my salary saved for retirement. (Open a Roth IRA or deposit the money in your 401(K) to pad your nest egg for the future).

One the eleventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me, eleven coupons-a-clipping. (Don’t forget you can stack a retailer’s coupon for on top of already reduced sale prices. Check out sites like CouponCabin.com to find individual and exclusive store offers that you can use on top of already discounted items. Double up to maximize your savings!)

On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 12 months of ID theft monitoring. (An ID thief can cost you tens or hundreds of points on your credit score. You might not know a thief has opened cards in your name until you’re refused a car loan or mortgage. But ID theft monitoring lets you keep a constant watch on your credit score and report to quickly spot anything suspicious.)

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