Posted in Budgeting for Everyone, Credit Cards, Debt Free, Financial Freedom, Saving for Your Future, Winning with Your Money, You and Your Money

The Credit Score Game – Part 2

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Your credit score is your financial reputation.  It is the only accurate picture the world – and you – has of how you handle your money.  And we all know a picture is worth a thousand words.  We should never become obsessed about our score, but we should all understand what it means so that we can make good financial decisions that will move us forward and not backwards in the area of our finances.

Last week, we talked about the biggest part of the pie – your payment history which makes up 35% of your score.  Today’s factor makes up 30% – which means that just these two things make up almost 2/3 of your score.  In my mind, that means that they are pretty important.  These two things show us very quickly how we handle our finances.  The first factor shows whether we honor our commitments and use tools such as budgets and spending journals to make sure we can follow through on our promises.  It also shows whether we are prepared for emergencies when they arise.  The next factor shows us how much we rely on debt in our finances.  Let’s take a look at factor number two!

Part 2 – 30% of your score is your credit utilization.  This is the percentage of your credit limits you use.  For example, if a credit card has a limit of $5000 and you have a balance of $1000, your utilization is 20%.  Here is a huge factor when it comes to the utilization percentage – it is the balance as of the statement date.  This means that even if you pay your cards in full every month, your utilization can be high.  In a minute, I will share a tip on how to avoid this.

The ideal percentage to keep a good score is 30% and below.  However, if you stay below 10%, your score will get a boost as that is considered excellent.  If you are a person who relies on debt to buy stuff, it may take a while to get this into a good position.  The only way to do this is to pay off your debt.  Unlike part one where you could start today and see results pretty quickly, this will take a little longer based on where you are and how much credit you have access to.  If you owe $400 on a $500 limit, you can knock that 80% down in one month.  But if you owe $5000 on a $10,000 limit, it may take months to get that 50% down.  This factor isn’t about timing so much as it is about the math.  And depending on where you are getting your score from, your percentage can be based on each individual account or can be an overall average of accounts.

There are two keys to helping this as soon as possible – one if you are a pay in full person and one if you are a debt person.  If you pay your card in full every month, the key is to make sure that your payment post before the statement date.  Paying it off then can be the difference in an 80% utilization and a 0% utilization.  Big difference!  If you are a debt person, the best thing you can do is start attacking your debt smallest to largest.  This will start to show zero percentages on cards and will lower your average utilization.  This will weigh heavy on the positive side especially the more you pay down.

The one thing you need to know about all of the parts of your credit score is that what is done is done.  You can’t go back and change it.  However, you can make better decisions going forward which will begin to outweigh the bad ones.  Trying to do it all can seem very overwhelming which is why I wanted to talk about the top 3 factors so that you can begin there.  You may not be able to start paying everything on time immediately if you have struggled with this for a while, but there is no better time than today to sit down, list out all of your bills with their minimums, set up a budget and begin to make it happen.  Doing this will automatically improve your utilization – lower debt = lower utilization.  You can do it!  I was $200,000 in debt making just $10,000/year with a 560 credit score when I started the process.  And look at me now – debt free, making way more than 10 grand, and my score is over 800.  It is not impossible and I hope that these small tips that I will be sharing will help you to start the journey now.

Credit is a part of life – we need it for things other than debt in today’s world.  It is your financial reputation.  And it’s okay if your reputation is scared a little right now.  Just make the decision to start over – start today making one better financial decision, pay one bill on time, pay one debt off, anything!  Today is your day!

Posted in Buying Your Dream House, Credit Cards, Debt Free, Financial Freedom, Winning with Your Money, You and Your Money

The Credit Score Game – Part 1

credit-score-report-historyWhen I was getting out of debt, I was told numerous times, credit scores mean nothing.  However, I learned that that is not exactly true.  Your credit score is your financial reputation – plain and simple.  When necessary, it shows people how you handle your finances – the good, the bad and the ugly.  I agree that your primary focus in your financial life should not be your credit score.  However, when you make positive financial decisions, your credit score will reflect that and in essence take care of itself.

In order for you to understand how that happens, you need to understand how the credit score works and what positive, on purpose money decisions you can make to help your score along.  So for the next 3 blog posts, we are going to cover the top 3 most important factors of your score and I will share tiny tips that you can do to raise your score simply and easily.  When I started focusing on getting out of debt and making positive decisions, my score went up 100 points in just one year – some take longer, some are quicker, but you have to start somewhere.  So here we go!

Part 1 – 35% of your score is your payment history.  That is over 1/3 on just this one thing.  And this is where many of us go way wrong.  Anytime you are overextended financially, someone doesn’t get paid.  If you don’t have the right health insurance and emergency fund, medical bills don’t get paid and end up in collections.  When you go credit card crazy and look up and owe hundreds every month that you don’t have, bills end up in turmoil.

Your payment history is very important to your financial reputation.  It shows people whether you have it together or not.  People don’t have to look at your bank accounts to know if you have a proper emergency fund – they simply need to look at your credit report.  You don’t have to show anyone your budget for them to know if you are doing one or not.  It is all reflected in your credit report.  Many people fall on hard times and if you are not properly prepared, it will affect your credit history and your financial reputation.

But don’t worry – it is never to late to fix it.  The first thing you need to start doing is get on a budget and pay every bill’s minimum payment every month on time or early.  If a bill is due on the 20th, pay it no later than the 15th – I mean the payment posts on the 15th.  Online payments usually posts within a day, but mailed payments can take 10-20 days to post.  Take this into consideration.  If you have to start with one, then another, then another and so on.  This is better than every single bill being late every single month.

Once you have everything being paid on time or early, begin to work on cleaning up any collection items that may be sitting out there.  They are already being reported as not being paid, but once you settle them (even if it is for a written settlement partial) it will show paid and raise your score.

The one thing you need to know about all of the parts of your credit score is that what is done is done.  You can’t go back and change it.  However, you can make better decisions going forward which will begin to outweigh the bad ones.  Trying to do it all can seem very overwhelming which is why I wanted to talk about the top 3 factors so that you can begin there.  You may not be able to start paying everything on time immediately if you have struggled with this for a while, but there is no better time than today to sit down, list out all of your bills with their minimums, set up a budget and begin to make it happen.  You can do it!  I was $200,000 in debt making just $10,000/year with a 560 credit score when I started the process.  And look at me now – debt free, making way more than 10 grand, and my score is over 800.  It is not impossible and I hope that these small tips that I will be sharing will help you to start the journey now.

Credit is a part of life – we need it for things other than debt in today’s world.  It is your financial reputation.  And it’s okay if your reputation is scared a little right now.  Just make the decision to start over – start today making one better financial decision, pay one bill on time, anything!  Today is your day!

Posted in Budgeting for Everyone, Building Wealth, Debt Free, Financial Freedom, Marriage and Money, Winning with Your Money

Budgets – The Key to Financial Success

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When you hear the word budget, do you think freedom or prison?  Many people lean on the side of prison, but as I found out, a budget is the key to financial success and freedom.  For the first 28 years of my life, I never did a budget – I mean I didn’t even write a list of my bills down each month.  Then, as many of you know, I found myself $200,000 in debt, a single mom making $10,000 year.  In order for me to get out of that situation and move forward in my finances, many things had to change.  The first thing was budgeting.

All budgets need to be written – at least until you reach the level of financial freedom where you automatically have set limits and can always stick to them.  I know millionaires who still write down budget items such as donations, medical expenses, etc. – items that they need to keep in check to make sure they don’t go over what their boundaries are.  And that is all a budget is – a list of your expenses and what your boundaries are in each category.  Your true boundary is your income – if you spend beyond that, you will head into dangerous territory.  The best way to avoid doing that is to set up a list of every dollar you are bringing in and where you want it to go including savings, retirement, fun, etc. – a zero budget.  Everyone can do this – whether you have regular income or irregular income.

Regular Income – When you get paid the same thing every month, it is easy to do a budget.  You know ahead of time what your take home will be so you can sit down a week or so before the beginning of the month and write out your budget.  You can use pen and paper like I do, or you can use a spreadsheet or one of the many apps out there.  It doesn’t matter how you do it – the important thing is that you do it.  As I mentioned before, make sure you do a zero budget – this is where every dollar has a home.  If something changes throughout the month, you can switch money around, but when you leave extra money floating out there, you have a tendency to forget about it and spend it on something you shouldn’t.  You are in charge of your money and if you don’t tell it where to go, it will literally go and you will never see it again.

Irregular Income – It is a little more challenging to do an specific budget when you have different amounts of income coming in each month.  However, it is just as important that you do one.  The first step is the same – write down all of your expenses.  Then rewrite them in priority order – let me help with this one – food, housing, utilities, transportation come first.  Then you can worry about credit cards, debt, etc.  Never pay a credit card before your rent/mortgage.  When your money comes in, simply start at the top of the list and pay down the list until you run out of money.  Everything else gets moved to the next check.  Here is a major tip that will help you if you have irregular income:  Have a cushy emergency fund.  If you have one, you will be able to cover all your expenses every month no matter what the income.  And when the months are good, you can rebuild the fund with the extra.  This will keep you from missing payments, being late and racking up extra fees.

Many people don’t like doing budgets because they believe that doing one will make them have to say no to something.  However, not doing one will make you have to say no to a lot of things in the near future.  A budget is a wealth building tool.  A budget is you being the boss of your money.  A budget is your key to financial freedom.  If you are scared to start budgeting, I understand.  I was right where you are.  Let me put your mind at ease – you will fail multiple times.  Not because you can’t do it, but because budgets are emotional things.  You will have to face your truth doing a budget.  You will have to say no sometimes doing a budget.  But without doing both of these things, you will never reach the financial freedom you so desperately want.  Start by doing a spending journal.  Learn where your money is actually going.  Then use that spending journal to do your first budget.  And I would also suggest continuing the spending journal in conjunction with the budget for several months or forever.  It is a great tool to have in your wealth toolbox. And my last tip – add a G.O.K. (God Only Knows) category to your budget.  All you need to put in it is $20-40 per month, but this will help you with those tedious expenses that pop up out of nowhere.

Budgets are not hard, but they are emotional.  Just remember, with a zero budget, you only have what you have.  Therefore, if something changes, the money has to come from somewhere – either another category or the future, meaning it may have to wait until next month.  After a few months, you will begin to build your muscles and you will get stronger with each month – and wealthier too.

Always remember – budgets are our friend!

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