It feels like summer just arrived, but now we’re shopping for calculators and new outfits and we’re only weeks away from getting back into the school year routine.
Chances are, this is the only time of the year that your kids will be excited about school, eager to rekindle friendships and start using their shiny new notebooks. As I watched yet another back-to-school commercial, I started to think that perhaps we could adopt the same mindset for working on our credit.
It’s so easy to fall into the habit of thinking that working on credit is hard, arduous, time consuming and boring. After all, there can be a LOT of paper, seemingly complicated codes and score factors to decipher, so many people to call, and we get an unvarnished glimpse into those times when our financial reality isn’t everything we want it to be. For these reasons, it’s not surprising that many people avoid working on their credit — preferring head-in-the-sand ignorance over just dealing with the issue.
Unfortunately, credit issues do not go away if you ignore them. They only persist, and that can drive your credit score down further.
Perhaps we can borrow some inspiration from our kids and all of their back-to-school excitement to reframe our thinking. Here are five tips to get you rolling in the right direction.
1. Set a date to start.
This is the date that you will roll up your sleeves and dive into your credit. Mark it on your calendar. Instead of thinking of it as a dreaded date of hardship, think of it as the date when you start rebuilding your credit. (Bonus tip: Borrow your kids’ excitement by setting the date for the same day they leave for school).
2. Get yourself some pens and a binder.
You’ll want to take notes. You might as well make it fun. And right now, pens and binders are super cheap. So go get yourself some funky pens and a big binder and relive those times when you were back in school. (Just remember, though, that we’re ultimately trying to rebuild your credit, so don’t go crazy with the spending and buy a new outfit, too, OK?)
3. Order your credit reports.
Make sure you’re ready to go on the date you set. Which means you should go get your credit reports from all three major credit reporting bureaus – Experian, Equifax and TransUnion (you can get them for free once a year through AnnualCreditReport.com) – and print them off and put them in your binder. You don’t have to look at them beforehand, but just make sure you’re all set to go for that start date.
4. Set goals.
Your kids don’t get bombarded with the entire school year on their first day. Likewise, you should set some realistic goals for yourself to get through your credit. Your goals should be built around the time you have available to work on your credit. Setting aside even an hour a day will allow you to do a lot of great work (as long as you are diligent throughout the entire hour!). Over time, you can map your progress by monitoring your credit score — which you can do for free using Credit.com’s Credit Report Card. Not only will this show you how your credit building efforts are paying off, but the Credit Report Card also breaks down the key areas of your credit — payment history, debt usage, credit age, account mix and inquiries — and shows you which ones need extra care and attention.
5. Keep it fun.
There’s no reason to dread your credit. Keep it fun. Find a friend who is also working on their credit and get together to support each other while you each work on your own credit.
Over the summer, you may have taken some time off from thinking about your credit while you relaxed at the beach and soaked up some sun. But now that the kids are getting back to school, it’s time to return to “regular life” and that probably includes renewing your focus on credit. Get motivated by your kids’ back-to-school excitement to make some significant progress on your credit goals.
Image: Ingram Publishing