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How smart wedding spending can lift your credit

By Justin Boyle

How smart wedding spending can lift your credit

With a lot of my friends getting married over the last year or so, I've heard all sorts of nightmare stories about planning and paying for weddings. The sheer fiscal magnitude of it all has made some of them wonder whether it isn't too late to elope.

With a little credit savvy though, juggling the big numbers on your wedding balance sheet can leave you with a boost to your credit score that may come in handy with your next mortgage lender (among other future creditors). Here are some guidelines for making your wedding spending work for you.

Free up some space

Although exact cost figures can vary widely from city to city, the average outlay for a wedding in the U.S. in 2014 was more than $28,600, according to WeddingStats.org. Considering that not everyone has that much credit available on their existing accounts -- and even if they do, it doesn't necessarily mean it would be wise to use it -- it's often necessary to make some plans on how to come up with all that cash.

One option is to take out a bank loan of a few thousand dollars and pay down the balances on your best credit cards before the charging spree begins, which has two strong positives in regards to your score: For one, it favorably diversifies your credit mix, which improves about 10 percent of your credit score. Secondly, it can help you avoid opening too many new credit accounts, which could bring down 25 percent of your score by lowering the average age of your accounts and ding you in the short term via the new credit inquiries.

Spread out your spending

You'll often be asked to lay down some money up front to secure your spot on the schedules of photographers, DJs and other wedding professionals. There's also usually a deposit required by the venue and the wedding planner's retainer, which can be pretty steep.

Considering these deposit-linked elements well in advance can help you schedule your expenses and payments in a way that keeps you as far as possible from your credit limit. Credit utilization -- that is, the ratio of your debt to your available credit -- makes up nearly a third of your credit score calculation, and using more than 35 percent of your credit for very long may be hazardous to your financial health.

You might also wish to spread your spending across multiple cards, even if it does make your personal accounting a bit more complex. Red flags can go up at the credit bureau if you mistakenly push a single card past its credit limit.

Keep your books tight

If there's anything in the personal finance world that can't be said often enough, it's this: Make all of your payments on time. It's easy to get caught up in the stress of your pending nuptials and wind up overlooking a few things, but it's imperative that you don't let a credit card payment be one of them.

Here are a few tips for keeping due dates and amounts straight amid the chaos:

  • Rig your phone to remind you at least once on each of the few days prior to the payment being due
  • Set up a no-fee checking account that you only use for automatic payments on your wedding cards
  • Manage your spending through Mint or another free budgeting app
  • Bookmark the online portals for your cards and check them every morning

That last one may sound obsessive, but it works. It only takes a few minutes a day to click through a few bookmarks and reduce the possibility of a payment slipping your mind to essentially zero.

Bonus perks

Once the vows have been said and the money's all been charged and repaid -- yes, that repayment part is a critical component of this plan -- a better credit score might not be all you have to show for your efforts. If you use the right travel rewards cards, for example, you might be able to go on a second honeymoon soon after your first.

For some people, a few dozen credit score points might not be worth the extra stress of juggling multiple balances alongside everything else. So go for this plan if you can handle it, but trust me, I understand if you don't. Weddings are stressful enough on their own.

Justin Boyle is a writer and journalist living in Texas.

Disclaimer: Discover is a paid advertiser of this site.
Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the Discover online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards.

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