We all have the best of intentions when it comes to our credit.
If you notice that everyone else seems to have their credit under control, while you’re spiraling deeper, you aren’t alone. Nearly a third of Americans have bad credit. How do you keep getting into this?
The answer might lie in your financial habits. In the past, we gave you finance skills you should have. But what about the financial habits you shouldn’t?
Here are ten financial habits you should break if you want to improve your credit.
Not keeping track of charges
It’s easy to lose track of what you charge to your credit card. $5 here, $10 there. It seems so harmless, in the moment.
But at the deadline, these charges add up. And if you’re trying to budget, you’ll be caught by surprise when your bill winds up being much higher than you expected. It will be harder to pay on time if you don’t know what to expect.
Keep track of every expense you have — whether it’s $50 or $5. That way, you’ll know exactly how much you have left to pay when the time comes.
Ignoring due dates
This may seem obvious. But it’s something that 1 in 4 Americans has trouble with.
Don’t let due dates catch you off-guard. Failing to pay them on time is one of the quickest ways to mess up your credit score, so it’s important to know when they’re coming up.
Staying on top of your due dates is one of the first steps you can take in improving your credit.
There are many tricks that stores will use to get you to spend. That’s their job, after all. But you can’t fall for them.
Be incredibly wary of any feeling in your gut that tells you that a sale is a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” There will always be more sales. No matter how much you feel like you need the thing they’re selling, you should not buy it unless you have the money to spend.
You’re allowed to indulge occasionally, of course. Just make sure you think it through, and avoid spending recklessly.
Not preparing for disaster
Even when you have your budget under control, it’s easy for things to spiral. A car crash or an unexpected doctor’s appointment can be all it takes to set you back to square one.
You need to start setting aside savings if you want to keep on top of your budget. Even $10 a month will add up if you keep at it for long enough.
That way, when disaster strikes, you’ll be prepared. Even if the worst happens, you won’t have to worry about your finances.
Thinking short term
It’s easy to look at something you want to buy, and think, “I deserve this.” And that’s probably true. But how useful will it be to you in the long term?
You need to be honest with yourself about the value of your possessions. That $60 blouse might make you really happy when you take it home, but what if you throw it out two months later after never wearing it? Is that television worth it if you stop watching it after a week?
The novelty of new items will often wear off quicker than you think. Focusing on the long term is a good way to remember that.
Not writing down your budget
It’s easy to imagine that we’ll be able to remember things on our own. But that’s often not true.
It’s been proven that we remember things better when we write them down. And, more importantly, writing things down makes it harder to cheat. If you keep your budget in your head, you’ll be able to tell yourself, “Well, what I really meant was …”
Avoid this by writing down a clear, concise budget.
Keeping things to yourself
Trying to improve your financial habits is no easy task. And like most difficult things, it’s even harder to do alone.
People are 33% more likely to reach their goals when they have someone holding them accountable. So pick a partner or a friend to hold weekly meetings with to discuss your project! You can even pick someone else with bad credit who you can help.
Turning this into a partnership helps take some of the weight off of your shoulders.
Relying on loans
Obviously, sometimes loans are unavoidable. When you’re going to college, or under similar circumstances, you might have to.
But taking them out frivolously — or as anything other than an absolute necessity — can do more harm than good. A lot of them have fees that are easy to overlook. Plus, you don’t know what your financial situation will be when it comes time to pay them.
Try to use loans only when absolutely necessary, and do your best to pay them off as promptly as possible.
Not understanding your credit
This can be one of the financial habits that you don’t even realize you have.
When your credit card bill comes each month, what do you do? Do you simply pay it off? Or do you take the time to look over it and see how your spending affects your credit each cycle?
If you aren’t doing the latter, now is the time to start. Your credit score is never going to improve unless you know exactly what’s making it bad in the first place.
You might feel like you’re trapped in a cycle. You constantly tell yourself that you’re going to get better, but the next time your bill rolls around, it just gets worse.
Saving money is hard. And if we don’t admit that to ourselves, it’s easy to give up.
This is one of those financial habits that requires a change of mindset, not just action. You need to stop thinking that this is going to be easy. It isn’t easy for everyone else, even though it looks that way. It’s not going to be easy for you, either, but that doesn’t mean you should stop trying.
And if you ever need motivation when it comes to breaking bad financial habits, you can always come to us.