Are you finally at a spot in your life where you are able to pay off some of your debt, and work on improving your credit score?
Even if you feel behind, or like it will never be possible to improve your credit score, there are ways to raise it!
Whether you finally have a job that pays enough so that you can start paying off some debt, or you are still living paycheck to paycheck, you can work on improving your credit score today.
When I was 18, I signed up for a bank account at Wells Fargo, and for some reason they think it’s a good idea to offer an 18 year old a credit card. The bank teller encouraged me to get one, so that I could work on improving my credit score and use it to pay for college textbooks.
One thing this bank teller didn’t take into consideration was that I was only eighteen. Hello?! I hadn’t learned a thing about saving money, let alone how the hell a credit card worked. Needless to say, I racked up my $900 limit quickly, and it took me about 4 years before I finally paid the thing off.
So, if you have ever been in a position with credit cards, whether it was using them when you were short on cash, or you were offered a Victoria’s Secret credit card like Sophia Amoruso, let me tell you that it’s OK. Everyone has to go through it at some point. After all, it’s the best way to learn.
Once I finally paid off that credit card, I stayed away from anything involving my credit score for a while- partly because my credit score was so low that no one wanted to give me one. But, within the last 6 months I was able to go from ‘very poor’ to ‘fair’ according to the Credit Karma’s scale. And if I can do it, you can too!
Here are some tips to start improving your credit score and get you back on track.
1. Figure Out Your Credit Score And Consolidate Your Debt
Sometimes looking at your credit score can be as scary as looking at your bank account. But, just like with your finances, it’s a good idea to know exactly where you stand. This way you can work on improving and figure out what steps to take to get a better score.
Credit Karma offers free credit reports, and a lot of credit card companies offer free monthly reports. I use Credit Karma to pay attention to my accounts, but it’s not always the most accurate when it comes to knowing your exact score. It can be over or under, so it’s better to get scores from a few different places. Just so you know roughly where you stand.
Once you figure out your score, and see what kind of debt you owe, see where you can make improvements. If debt collectors are calling you, you can try to answer and reason with them. When I finally started paying off that credit card from above, it was only after I accidentally answered a debt collectors phone call. They had a lot of different payment options, and I was able to do a monthly payment plan.
Once you do pay off the debt, it isn’t guaranteed the debt collector will take it off your account. But, most do, and it’s better to just do your part and pay off your debt. Especially if it’s new debt, because that stays on your record for 7 years!
2. Sign Up For A Secured Credit Card
If you don’t know what a secured credit card is, it’s a type of credit card that you put down a deposit for. And typically whatever the deposit is, is your monthly budget for that card. If that makes sense?
For example, I applied and had to put down a $99 deposit and had a $200 monthly spending limit for that card. That might not sound like much to improve your credit score, but ANYTHING helps. And they increased my limit to $500, so there’s that.
Also, credit card companies like it when you don’t use the full amount every month. There’s a certain percentage you should be using, but shouldn’t go above that. I had a limit of $200, but I only maxed out at $60- so I only used 30% of that $200. I paid off that $60 every month, and when you pay in full you are much better off.
Using a secured credit card is the most ‘secure’ way to go about getting a credit card, and anyone can apply for it. No matter what your credit score is. And starting small might be just what you need to get back on track. Since I’ve started, I was able to get another credit card, and improve my monthly limit from $200 to $500.
And this is the number one way my credit score improved so much and so quickly within the last 6 months!
3. Practice Better Spending Habits
Having a credit card can feel like free money. But, it’s more like fake money, and you have to pay it back with your real money.
So, create a budget for yourself. If you don’t have the actual money in your bank account to pay for something, don’t rely on your credit card.
Even if you know you’ll be getting paid this Thursday and can immediately pay it back. If you don’t have the money in your account right now, that means you won’t have the money to pay off your credit card at the end of the month. Instead of making yourself feel guilty when you are late on your payments, just put the credit card away and practice good spending habits!
And if you are trying to improve your score and use a credit card, set up automatic payments and reminders on your phone. That way you won’t forget to pay it monthly.
Building your credit score takes time, and it can be easy to put it on the back burner because you don’t get immediate results from it. But, it’s good practice for being patient and achieving your long-term goals.
Having a good credit score will help you SO much once you decide to buy a house, or buy a car. And buying a car without needing a parent’s co-signature is a huge win! You parents will be seriously impressed, too.
Set a budget, keep track of your finances and work on increasing your score. If you work at it every month, your score will improve and you will feel like a badass.