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Bikini season is just around the corner. For many of us who plan to wear fun and flattering swimwear at the beach this summer, it means putting in a few extra minutes on the treadmill or saying no to the second helping of chocolate cheesecake. Looking great in a bikini doesn’t start the moment you put the bikini on, it starts a few months before with careful choices.

Your credit is exactly the same. Credit isn’t something that can’t be “fixed” overnight and you should run in the opposite direction of any “expert” who tells you that it can be. It takes careful choices, and a bit of time, to make positive changes to your credit.

A beach-ready body is partly improved by diet — by choosing the right foods and limiting the wrong foods.

Just as you are careful with the food you take in, you also need to be careful with your credit: Avoid making too many inquiries for credit if you don’t need it. Like empty calories, excessive credit inquiries can count against your credit score making you appear as though you’re desperate for credit, which according to credit scoring models is indicative of higher risk. Instead, only apply for credit when you actually need it.

A beach-ready body is partly improved by exercise — by actively burning calories and building muscle.

Just as you exercise your body, you also need to exercise your credit: Make sure that you are paying off (on time!) any bills you have, and make sure that you are regularly using your credit so that it doesn’t become stale. Like a nice healthy whole-body workout, making sure your credit gets paid off on time will go a long way toward helping you achieve healthy credit.

Diet and exercise will help you get that swimsuit figure you want for summer.

Similarly, it will help your credit get fit as well. Many of us already know that these factors can help but they still struggle anyway. For some, that beach body isn’t quite ready for summer and that credit score never really hits the high number we’re hoping for.

The reasons are habits and monitoring. The people who get that bikini body do so because they adopt good habits (not just occasionally healthy practices) and they monitor their progress with a mirror and a weight scale.

Your credit is exactly the same. Occasional healthy credit practices won’t have as much of an impact as good, consistent credit habits. One of the biggest impacts you can have on your credit score is by regularly paying off your credit on time and in full.

And, you should also monitor your credit regularly by pulling your credit reports from each of the credit reporting bureaus (you can get a free report yearly from each bureau using AnnualCreditReport.com), and monitoring your credit scores (which you can do for free using Credit.com’s Credit Report Card). Use these reports just as if you stepped on a scale — to monitor your progress and figure out where you need to put a little more focus.

This is the season when we start thinking about how we’ll look on the beach. Use that as inspiration to take a closer look at your credit. And while you get your beach body ready, why not make sure that your credit will also look good in a bikini, too!

Image: iStockphoto

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