Credit scores play a large role in your financial present and future. By having good credit, you can qualify for lower interest rates and qualify for smaller monthly payments. Often, you might see advertisements for companies who promise to erase negative information in your credit history in exchange for a fee. These are scam artists who can’t, and won’t, deliver. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some accurate, useful tips on how to improve your credit score. You can view these tips at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre03.shtm but here are some key points:
Develop a Budget and Stick to It
The first step towards taking control of your financial situation is to do a realistic assessment of how much you earn and how much you spend. Start by listing your income from all sources, then list your fixed expenses, expenses that are the same every month. For example; mortgage payments/rent, car payments, gym memberships and insurance premiums, etc. Then list varied expenses, such as entertainment, recreation, and clothing. By writing down all your expenses, even those that seem frivolous, you can better track your spending patterns and be aware of where your money goes. Remember, that your goal is to make ends meet on the basics: housing, food, health care, insurance, education.
Contact Your Creditors
If you are having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors and tell them why it’s difficult for you and try to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to a manageable level. Don’t wait until your accounts have been turned over to a debt collector because at this point creditors have given up on you and you’re in real trouble.
Deal with Debt Collectors
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) dictates how and when debt collectors may contact you. A debt collector may not call you before 8 AM or after 9 PM or while you’re at work if the employer doesn’t approve of the calls. Creditors may not harass you, lie, use unfair practices, and must honor a written request from you to stop further contact.
Many credit counseling organizations are nonprofit and work with you to solve your financial problems. But be aware that just because an organization claims to be “nonprofit” does not mean its services are free, affordable, or even legitimate. You should make an educated decision when choosing a credit counseling group. Research the organization or get a referral from a family member or friend. Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, offer free educational materials, and offer free workshops. Their counselors are certified and trained in the areas of consumer credit, money, debt management, and budgeting.
Only time, effort, and a good plan can help you improve your credit.