Everyone knows it’s a bad idea to max out credit cards, but common sense goes out the window during the holidays. You can end up putting more on plastic than you realize while curating the perfect holiday. From gifts and food to travel and unexpected expenses that crop up along the way, you can tie up your entire credit limit. 

This habit alone may not be enough to knock off points from your credit score, but it may have a negative effect if you can’t pay it all back at once.

Carrying over a balance from month to month can get you into financial trouble — not only because this balance will be subject to finance charges and interest, but it also may raise your credit utilization ratio. Your credit utilization ratio is the second-most weighted factor of your score, and the higher it is, the more likely you’ll see your score drop.

What Does a Bad Credit Score Mean? 
A bad credit score means you’re living your life on hard mode. Lenders check this score to see how dependable you are as a borrower. If they don’t like what they see, they may deny you.

Lenders aren’t the only one to check your credit. Landlords, utility and insurance companies, and even employers may peek at your score. A bad score here could cost you a job or an apartment, or it could raise your bills. 

How to Raise Your Score
All in all, it would make your life easier if you can raise your score. Here are some money management tips to help you balance your budget and work on your score at the same time. 

Know Where to Borrow with Bad Credit
Maxing out your credit limit means you can’t use this card as your usual safety net. If something goes wrong, and you don’t have the cash on hand to deal with it, you’ll need to find another way to handle an emergency. 

While plenty of traditional lenders may deny you funding, some direct online lenders provide installment loans for bad credit. They still look at this score, but they weigh it against other financial factors before coming to a decision. Remember direct online lenders if you face an unexpected emergency expense before you can pay off your card or lower your score. 

Start Making the Minimum Payment
If you can’t pay off your entire balance, making the minimum payment is the next best thing. Paying this on time will keep your account in good standing and prevent negative payment history.

This is a good first step, but it is by no means the last. The minimum payment is only a small fraction of your overall bill, so you’ll still carry over a balance that will accrue interest and finance charges. 

Reduce Your Other Expenses
To make a bigger dent against your balance, you’re going to have to look at your budget. Keep your eyes peeled for unnecessary expenses that you can put on hold while you pay off your card. For most people, these end up being bills like subscription services, takeout, and miscellaneous or impulsive spending

Use the cash you usually spend on these expenses and pour them into your credit card payment.

Be Patient
Paying off your balance may not happen overnight, but these tips can help you slowly chip away at what you owe. Keep at it for as long as it takes to pay off your card and remember for next year: set a limit on holiday spending!