Woman carrying several holiday shopping bags.

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Your credit score could spell the difference between getting to borrow money affordably when you need to and winding up seriously out of luck. As such, it's important to preserve your credit score -- something that's harder to do during the holidays, when there are so many things to spend money on. But this year more than ever, it's important to keep your credit score in good shape. Here's how.

1. Set and stick to a budget

Limiting your spending this holiday season is a good way to avoid the dangerous debt that can damage your credit for a long time. Before the holidays kick off, take the time to map out a budget that accounts for all of your extras -- gifts, decor, cards, and travel. That way, you'll have an outer limit to work with. 

2. Don't open store credit cards

In the course of your holiday shopping, you may be tempted to open a store credit card or two. These credit cards are fairly easy to qualify for, and often, they come with perks like cash back on your store purchases. But be careful because these cards can also lead to temptation and tend to charge very high interest rates. And racking up a credit card balance you can't pay is a good way to send your score plunging.

3. Cut back on other expenses

At a time when there are so many additional things to spend money on, cutting back on a few basics could go a long way. During the holidays, think about what you normally buy. Are there areas with wiggle room? Maybe you can order dinner a few less times in December, or cancel your meal-kit service that costs a lot more than store-bought groceries for a month or two. Small changes could help you avoid credit card debt, and the less debt you have, the stronger your score is apt to stay.

4. Find safe work to do on the side

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you may find that you're spending more on the holidays than you're comfortable with. You can set a budget that doesn't allow for a flight home, but if your parents really put the pressure on to pay them a visit, it's hard to say no. Unfortunately, those added expenses -- and the credit card debt they can cause -- can damage your score, so a good way to combat that is to boost your income with a little side work. If there's a safe gig you can pick up in town, like waiting tables at a restaurant, that's a good solution. But if you're not comfortable working someplace in person given the pandemic, you can try finding a remote side hustle -- something like web design or data entry you can do from home.

We don't know what 2021 has in store for the economy, and while things are bad now, they could get worse before they get better. That's why it's so important to emerge from this holiday season with a solid credit score. At a time like this, you need that flexibility, so do everything you can to avoid wrecking your credit in time for the new year.