Budget 101 Part 7: Managing debt and increasing your credit score

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“You get a car, you get a car, you get a car. Everyone gets a car.” Ah, if only we were in the audience that day on the Oprah show. But reality is, cars and houses aren’t free. Even worse, your credit can make attaining these things more difficult and cost you more in the process.

Have you considered the fact that your credit score may be keeping you from achieving your dream of homeownership? Lenders consider your credit score one of the most crucial factors when applying for a mortgage. Not only does it determine your eligibility for the loan, but it also affects the conditions you’ll receive. For instance, having a credit score of at least 620 makes it easier to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan. However, if your credit score is lower, you may face significantly higher interest rates, with scores below 620 averaging around 7.5% compared to 5.8% for scores above 760. These higher interest rates substantially increase the overall cost of homeownership.

Tackling debt and managing credit are vital steps for improving your financial situation. While bad credit can make it challenging to access credit cards, loans, and mortgages and may even impact your job prospects there are numerous ways to improve your credit history and build a higher credit score.

Strategies for Paying Off Debt Efficiently

  1. Snowball Method: Start by paying off your smallest debt first while making minimum payments on other debts. This approach builds momentum and motivates you to keep going.
  2. Avalanche Method: Focus on paying off debts with the highest interest rates first while maintaining minimum payments on the others. By tackling high-interest debts early, you save on interest costs in the long run.
  3. Consolidation: Consider consolidating your debts into a single loan or balance transfer credit card with a lower interest rate. This simplifies your repayment and may save you money on interest.

For a more comprehensive understanding of these strategies, check out our article 3 Strategies for credit card debt repayment

Understanding Credit Scores and Improving Creditworthiness

A strong credit score is crucial for financial well-being. Here are some tips and strategies to help you understand credit scores and improve your creditworthiness.

  1. Keep Credit Utilization Low: Aim to keep your credit utilization under 30%, and ideally under 10%. This demonstrates responsible borrowing habits.
  2. Average Age of Accounts: Lender’s value a long credit history. Keep your oldest accounts open, as they contribute positively to your credit score.
  3. Have 5+ Credit Cards: Surprisingly, having multiple credit cards can benefit your credit score. Each card increases your available credit, lowering your overall credit utilization ratio.

For those who are unable to qualify for an unsecured credit option due to their credit, consider taking out a secured credit card. A secured credit card is backed by a cash deposit, typically equal to the credit limit. This deposit often ranges from 50% to 100% of the initial deposit amount.

Remember, managing debt and good credit requires time and responsible financial behavior. By implementing these strategies and tips, you can enhance your creditworthiness and gain access to better financial opportunities.

In the next edition of Budget 101, we will explore budgeting techniques specifically designed for individuals with irregular income streams.

As always…remember the little things you do today, can help you accomplish the bigger dreams you have for tomorrow.

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