Setting your sights on Christmas and frantically rushing to get everything done before the holiday? You might be so overwhelmed that you neglect some practical ways to save your car – and you – from a visit by the Grinch. Here are 12 ways to keep that nasty Grinch away from your car this Christmas.

Stow It – Valuables, That Is – No need to be an obvious target for would-be thieves. Sure you’ve got several more stops to make or you have to go back inside the store to pick up the rest of your purchases. But that doesn’t mean thieves aren’t watching your every move – or aren’t on the prowl between cars in the lot looking for easy pickings. To avoid the prospect of a damaged vehicle and stolen items, secure all your purchases and valuables where they can’t be seen, preferably in a locked trunk or compartment.

Watch Where and How You Park – You’ve seen the I-think-I’m-so-clever driver who parks on a diagonal, hogging two or more spaces. Don’t be that person. Not only are you broadcasting how selfish you are, you’re inviting vandalism by those with an ax to grind. And your oafish behavior will cost you precious dollars to fix the damage you could otherwise avoid.

Mind the Meter – If you’re tempted to avoid putting coins in the meter, thinking you’ll save a few bucks while you dash into the store that’s close by, think again. Meters are more than just collection devices for local municipal agencies. They’re also the Grinch’s friend. When you ignore the red flag or fail to return to feed the meter, you’re going to wind up with a parking violation ticket more often than not. Depending on how often you engage in this type of behavior, you may wind up with a serious dent in your budget. It’s all car related, so being a little more conscientious minding the meter can help out.

Keep It Clean Inside – While the Grinch may be a slob, that doesn’t mean you have to keep your car in the same condition. Besides, piles of soda cans, fast-food wrappers, CD cases strewn about and last month’s collection of workout clothes could be just the enticement a thief needs to break into your car. Who knows? If you’re that careless and lazy, you might have goods for the taking. Keep your car clean inside to help ward off a break-in.

Don’t Be a Jerk Behind the Wheel – Various driving behaviors that can get you – and your car – into some jeopardy include passing on a double yellow line, racing to beat a light, following too close, speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, distracted driving by using your cell phone or other electronic device when you’re supposed to be concentrating on driving. Any of these behaviors qualify you as a jerk – and may very well cost you plenty of money – in unwanted accidents, traffic tickets, court and attorney’s fees, hospital expenses and lawsuits. Be a courteous and conscientious driver and you’ll keep the Grinch at bay.

Stop for All Red Lights – You’ve only got a few minutes to make it to the store before the huge sale is over and you decide to gun the gas to squeak through that yellow-and-soon-to-be-red light. Don’t. Whether it’s an intersection with a red-light camera or not, why take the chance that someone with a lead foot trying to jumpstart the green won’t plow into you? In addition to wrecking your car, you could land in the hospital. That’s not at all appealing for the holidays. So stop for all red lights – and exercise caution when the light’s turning yellow as you approach.

Slow Down – That few seconds you think you might save by going over the speed limit or deliberately speeding isn’t going to do you any good if you wind up getting a speeding ticket or having (causing or being in) an accident. Think of the considerable expense either will do to your budget. Just slow down. This is the best way to keep the Grinch from getting his hand in your pocket to wipe you out.

Avoid Tailgating – Why doesn’t that idiot driver in front of you pay attention to the speed limit or get out of the way? You might think that riding on his or her bumper will encourage them to go a little faster, but chances are it won’t. Should that driver ahead suddenly slam on the brakes, who’s going to wind up the loser? It likely will be you – and your car. By keeping a safe distance between you and vehicles ahead you’ll avoid the negative consequences of following too close.

No Annoying Hand Gestures at Others – If you’ve just had it up to here with inconsiderate drivers on the road, giving them a piece of your mind with a hand gesture just to ease your frustration isn’t a good idea. Not only does it encourage reciprocal bad behavior, it might escalate tension into road rage or worse. Try breathing in and out deeply to ratchet down your blood pressure and restore a sense of calm. The last thing you need is someone to jump out of their vehicle and start pounding on yours – or you. You also don’t want a follow-home driver intent on mayhem. This will definitely ruin your holidays, so keep a cool head behind the wheel.

Stop With the Flashing Lights – The Grinch loves drivers who are so impatient with others on the road that he or she feels the need to repeatedly flash the car’s lights to get them to move. Don’t be that rude, impatient driver. It can only result in trouble. Go with the flow and turn on some music to help you calm down.

Mind Your Manners – Everyone has plenty of places to go this holiday season and less and less time to accomplish everything that needs to get done. You can be a contributor to mayhem or an example of a thoughtful and considerate driver. It’s really up to you how you drive. While minding your manners behind the wheel may not instantly translate to savings this holiday season, it’s a hidden bonus when it winds up saving you from the Grinch’s evil clutches.

Keep Up With Your Payments – Getting up on Christmas morning and heading out to your car to find that it’s gone isn’t anyone’s idea of Merry Christmas. If this happens to you, it could be that you failed to make that last payment on time. If you have a pattern of paying late or have missed a few payments, your car could be snatched by the repo man, aka the Grinch to those who’ve been the unfortunate victims. Your car payment is a necessary expense. Don’t be tempted to put this on the back burner this holiday season. Make sure to keep up with your payments so your car is ready and available to go when you are.

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