My mother is a widow who lives on a tight budget. The last few Christmases, she’s been blowing a lot of money on gifts for my husband, me and the kids. By February, she’ll usually ask me for a little help to cover her bills. I know she feels Christmas is the one time she can really spoil us, but I’m worried she may be digging herself into a money pit. What can I do? Janice, California
I think your mom and I have something in common. We are people-pleasers. It’s easy for us to go overboard trying to get approval. Take her out to lunch and tell her you understand that things are tight since your dad is gone and it makes you uncomfortable when she spends a lot on you.
Gently turn the conversation to the coming holidays. Ask her to help you teach the kids that sometimes the best gifts aren’t wrapped up in a box. Years from now they won’t remember the gifts she gave as much as the time she spent with them. One idea might be for her to give them individual gift certificates for “My Special Day with Grandma” doing just what they love to do.
As for you and your husband, if she has a possession that you love dearly suggest she give that to you for Christmas. She’ll have many years of watching you enjoy owning something that is also precious to her.
My husband and I are about to apply for a mortgage. Although our credit is in pretty good shape, we have a lot of credit cards—a few from department stores, one for frequent flyer miles and two that we use regularly, but pay off every month. A friend recently told me that if the banks notice that you have too many cards in your name, it can hurt your chances of getting any loan. Is she right? Should I cancel those extra cards right away? Caroline, New Jersey
Before you do anything, get your individual credit reports and credit scores. Go to www.AnnualCreditReport.com and request your free credit reports—one each for you and your husband. You are entitled to a free credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus every year. I suggest requesting a free report every four months from one of the bureaus. By year’s end, you’ll have all three reports.
As far as getting a copy of your credit score, go to www.MyFICO.com. The cost to obtain a copy of your current score is $19.95. Along with your scores you’ll get an analysis and explanation of the factors affecting your scores.
Your friend is right that lots of available credit can lower your score, but having too little is not good either. But closing accounts with your creditors is not wise, as it will have a negative impact on your score. Rather, focus on getting all of your balances down to $0.
Question: What is the best gift you ever received that wasn’t store-bought? Tell us here.