new years resolutions

How To Improve Your Credit Score In 2017

The New Year is a great time to set new goals, and it gives people the fresh start they need to make the changes they desire. At the beginning of each year, around two-thirds of Americans vow to make their lives better by having a New Year’s resolution. Out of those two-thirds, only 8% achieve their goals. Improving credit scores and getting out of debt is among the most popular resolutions each year. With so many people desiring to improve their credit scores, why do most fail? The answer is that most goals fail without having a concrete plan in place. If improving your credit and getting out of debt is one of your resolutions this year, having a roadmap ensures you will improve your credit score in 2017.

A credit report is simply a compilation of information obtained from lenders that an individual has used. The information in a credit report determines your credit worthiness as a borrower. In a nutshell, a credit report is a measuring tool to analyze how a person manages debt and their likelihood of repaying a loan. A credit report also depicts a person’s spending behaviors. Debt to income ratios could indicate if a person is spending more than their ability to pay.

Credit affects many important areas in life. Everything costs more with poor credit scores, which often makes it even harder to improve your credit score. While resolving to improve your credit score may not be the most glamorous New Year’s resolution, it may be one of the most important. The financial freedom and self-discipline that comes from seriously improving your credit score will be an investment you cannot afford not to make. Here are the steps to keep your resolution and improve your credit score this year.

1. Take an honest assessment of your credit

The first step in improving a credit score is to know exactly what needs improvement. In order to make an effective get out of debt plan, take some time to understand your current credit situation. Set aside a day and time that you can truly delve into your finances to create a plan.

A crucial part of improving your credit score is being honest with yourself. One of the most overlooked steps in improving credit is understanding your own behavior with money and debt. Use credit card statements and bank statements to track spending habits. Did an emergency arise that caused you to max out a credit card? Maybe an unexpected car repair, loss of income, medical situation, or natural disaster forced you to use credit cards more than you would have liked. Perhaps impulsive spending led you to high credit card balances. However you ended up with credit card debt, it is wise to learn from it, so you could plan for the future. Having a savings account to handle life’s emergencies can protect your credit score and your wallet.

Credit card debt does not always signify a money issue. It’s often a behavioral issue. Changing behaviors and relationship with money will not just propel you to improve your credit score, it ensure that bad habits will not surface again once your credit goals have been met.

2. Clean up your credit report

According to the FTC, millions of people have errors on their credit reports that can result in a lower score. Carefully check your credit report to ensure all information is being reported accurately. Once a year, you can obtain a free copy of your credit report from all three credit bureaus. If you suspect fraud, inaccurate information, or need to update your personal information, you can contact the credit bureaus individually to find out their dispute process.

To find out where to obtain a free copy of your credit report, check out our blog post on how to get your credit report and credit score for free.

Professional credit repair companies can help you clean up your credit report. However, it’s important to choose the right one, since many credit repair companies are ineffective scams.

3. Understand how credit scores are calculated

Many people have lower credit scores because they do not understand how it is calculated. Depending on your situation, aiming to eliminate all credit card debt may not be possible in one year. Around 30% of your credit score stems from credit card balances. Aim to reduce the debt to income ratio by paying off 20% or more of credit card balances.

Another credit score buster is applying for too much credit in a short period. Apply for credit only if it is absolutely necessary. 10% of a credit score is calculated by the number of hard inquiries. Another 15% of a credit score is determined by the age of the accounts. Having too many new accounts or inquiries could put a significant dent in your score, so avoid opening new lines of credit if possible.

4. Change spending habits

Knowing how to allocate your income will be a beneficial asset during this process. Is there something you can sacrifice to get to your credit goals faster? Maybe skipping your daily latte for a short period or avoiding take out lunches will speed up the process of paying off a credit card or increasing your emergency fund. It is wise to be mindful of how money is spent. Small purchases here or there may seem fine, but they eventually add up quickly. Look for ways to be smarter about money and use the savings to improve your financial health.

5. Be responsible with the credit you already have

To successfully improve your credit score this year, you will have to take care of the credit you already have. Establishing a history of paying bills on time will be viewed favorably and will have positive impacts on your credit score. If paying bills on time has been a struggle in the previous year, commit to paying bills on time this year. It is vital that all payments are made on time, every time. A late or missed payment can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. A person with an excellent score could potentially lose around 90 points because of a missed or late payment.

If you think you will be late with paying your bill, do not wait until the last minute to contact the lender. Contact the creditors right away and set up alternative payment arrangements. Most creditors and banks have automated payment options available to make paying bills on time easier.

6. Adjust expectations and work hard

While “improving credit” and “getting out of debt” are some of the most cited New Year’s resolutions, they are often the ones people break the quickest. Like many resolutions, improving credit scores takes hard work, patience, and a change in behavior. These things normally do not happen overnight. Create a realistic budget and stick to it. This will keep track of bills and spending habits. Wallethub.com suggests breaking credit goals down into smaller goals to maximize your ability to follow through with your plan. For example, setting a deadline to order credit report, increase emergency funds, and create a budget could be mini-goals that pushes you closer to your ultimate goal.

Concluding Thoughts

Everyone could benefit from analyzing their credit reports and spending habits. Surprisingly, the most effective way to improve a credit score is to change your mind set about credit and money. By understanding your previous credit pitfalls, you can work hard at eliminating them. A healthy relationship with money, hard work, and perseverance will eventually translate to excellent credit. This year, resolve to investing in yourself by improving your credit score.

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