Maintaining positive credit during the holiday season

For many people, the December and January holidays mean increased spending on gifts and other items.

However, contributor and accounting professor Passard Dean says those increased outlays can negatively impact a consumer's credit score many months later if they aren't careful.

The first step, according to Dean, is to make sure that all payments are made on time, since late payments can significantly hurt a score.

In addition, consumers should avoid the temptation to max out their credit cards even long after holidays have passed. For consumers, keeping total debts to less than 50 percent of their overall credit limits is a good rule to set, Dean says.

It's also important to establish a firm budget whenever one shops, he added, which can help consumers make sure they don't get too far into debt and can pay off their bills quickly.

Finally, Dean recommends consumers get a copy of their credit reports on a regular basis. By keeping an eye on their credit histories, people can make sure there aren't any discrepancies hurting their scores.