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          Yes, you read that correctly. I improved my credit score by 246 points in a little less than 5 months. No, I didn't have a person "clean" my credit. By the way, those people that do that are really stealing your money. You can do most of that yourself and not pay anything, but I will touch on that later. I did it all by myself. Well, I did use an app; but, I was motivated by a good friend that made me feel terrible because she was improving her score as well.
 

Disclaimer: I am in no way a financial advisor. The steps I took to improve my score worked for me and they may not work for you. This is solely to show what I did and can be used as a guide to help others.

That Awful Moment You Realize You Are In Trouble  

             I must do something that I rarely do on this blog. I must get extremely personal. Revealing your credit score to others is worse than talking on stage in front of a million people. Especially when I remember how bad my credit score was. However, in the spirit of transparency, I must disclose where I began, in order to emphasize the improvement.

             Now, I wasn't out here just not paying bills. I just never really paid attention to my credit. Mainly because I bought everything in cash and I have been so against buying a house. Those aren't excuses, but they played a major role in why I neglected my credit for so long. There was a time when I had good credit. Then I divorced and all hell broke loose.

             It all started back around March of this year. I was speaking with a good friend, Crystal, about her wanting to buy a house. My first thought was to be a hater and discourage her and tell her how awful that would be. Why? Not because I thought it was an awful idea, but mainly because I wasn't able to do the same. She went on the tell me that she had been cleaning her credit and that I should as well. Prior to this, I ignored my credit. It was already bad, so why even bother with it? She told me to download the Credit Karma app. That way I could see my score and know what all was on my credit report. That's when it hit me like a ton of bricks. I knew my score was bad, but I didn't think it would be that bad. The number shook me to my core. It was at that moment I realized I had a problem. That number was 425.

         A $13 bill? Really?
 

           Yes, my score was a 425. I had never thought about a number having so much power. It was basically my worth. It was the number that defined me. I was instantly ashamed, as I had to reveal this to my friend. She was very encouraging and said we could attack our credit together. It sort of became our little competition. I highly suggest having someone you can confide in and to be there to uplift you and keep you from giving up. Trust me, I wanted to give up several times.

          So we looked over my credit report and all my past due accounts. There were several by the way. I was about $20,000 in debt at that point, which surprised me a little. The one thing that really made me feel ashamed was that I had a bill for $13 that was 5 years old! Yes! Just $13! It was a copay I forgot to pay. They’re petty for keeping that account open for that long though, lol.
 

           The Attack Plan


          I planned to attack my bills head on from the smallest to the largest. Some like to take a set amount and apply to all their past due bills, but I didn't want to do that. I like to see things vanish and have instant feedback. This is what works for me. Do what works best for you. I had 4 small bills totaling $200 that I paid off instantly. I called them up and paid them. I also asked that it be removed from my credit report. Additionally, I requested that they emailed or mail correspondence showing it was paid in full.
           Next up, I knew I needed more lines of good credit, so I decided to get a credit card. No one would give me one so I went the secured credit card route. The real beauty of these cards is that you're using your money. It's almost like a little savings account that can also help you build credit. You're also less likely to mess up your own money. I put $200 onto the secured credit card. I knew I had to keep spending less than 30%, so I added my Netflix account to the card and bought gas each week. I made sure I paid this off as soon as I got paid or a few days after. Why? Well, Credit Karma checks for changes more often than each month. While the credit card companies don't report that often, you still have more uses for them to report. That makes your score go up. I used that car each week and paid it off each week. I still have Netflix coming out automatically from it. I never go over $50 a month with this card.
             Thirdly, I disputed every past due account that I felt wasn't accurate. In doing so, I was able to knock away a large chunk of my debt. This is what those folks that charge lots of money to “clean” your  credit do. Essentially, they send out letters to the creditors and hope they don't respond within the mandatory 30 days. If they don't respond, the account is closed and your score goes up. Again, let me reiterate, YOU can totally do this yourself and for free with the Credit Karma app. Don't waste your money!
             About a month or so in, I noticed my score had improved about 100 points. I was happy with this, but I set a goal go being in the 600 club. I knew to do that I needed more lines of credit and a better payment history. So I decided to get another credit card. This time I was approved for an unsecured card with a $500 limit on it. I cut the cable cord years ago and my main way of viewing TV is through Netflix and Playstation Vue. Due cost about $30 a month, so I have it coming directly out of this card. I also used this card to pay a few bills. I also use this card to get groceries. It never goes over $150 per month


              600 Club Yo!
 

            I noticed my score was stuck around the 575 range for a while. I was paying some bills off, but I wasn't seeing the jump I really wanted. I had about 5 bills left on my credit report and they were largely significant. I knew I was going to need more lines of credit to get the boost I needed. So, I applied for another credit card. The beauty of Credit Karma is that they have these little card suggestions and they tell you what your odds are of getting these cards. Luckily, I applied and I got approved for a card with a $1,000 limit. I had hit the big leagues! LOL. I used that to instantly pay off a $400 bill I had. (I used $300 from the card and $100 from my savings). The next month I saw that I had finally arrived in the 600 club!
            I worked extra at work, scored a few photography gigs, paid off another bill, and the credit cards, and BOOM! My score jumped again! I hit 648! I was at a point where I could buy a house if I wanted. Trust me, I looked for a minute and was almost going to pull the trigger, but I decided I wanted to now be in the 700 club! See how I make it into a little game? That's how I remain focused.
           That's pretty much it. That's how I improved my score. I know you're wondering how does he come up with a 246 point jump when 246 from 648 is only 223. I know right! Bad math. Well, while looking at homes, my car decided to crap out on me. It was still drivable, but it was drinking coolant every other day. I knew it was time to get a new car and I decided this was probably the best time to do so. I applied for a loan and was approved with an interest rate that was great for me. When I looked at the loan paperwork, my credit score was actually at 671! Hello semi decent credit!! I'm coming for you 700!
           

          In part 2, I will tell you how I got out of a car loan with 24.49% interest rate and got almost 12K off the MSRP of a 2017 model car. 

Life is for Living, 

Michael B.  

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