Building Your Credit Instead of Destroying Your Credit

Women love to shop. That’s the stereotype, right? That women love to spend the money their men work hard to earn–often on things that any rational human being (aka dudes) would find frivilous and unnecessary. It’s a damaging stereotype, to be sure, but it is one that we are fed over and over again. Here are some of the steps you can take to smash that stereotype to bits and show people that women can be financially savvy too.

1. Understand how Your Credit Score is Determined

There is a lot more to building a great credit score than simply paying $5 for than the minimum due on all of your credit card bills every month. The number of accounts you have open, how quickly you pay down your debt, your debt to income ratio, all of these things are factors in the overall equation that determines your score. According to the Credit Revolution eBook by Lexington Law, even the number of accounts you’ve applied for is factored in. When you know how a credit score is determined, you’ll have a better idea of how to manage yours.

2. Manage Your Own Money

Every woman should know how to manage her credit and debt. Even if you are in a rock solid relationship, make your family’s financial management a team effort between you and your partner. The last thing you want is to be caught unaware if a disaster happens. Moreover, in today’s cultural landscape, many couples keep their finances mostly separated. They have individual accounts and then a separate joint account to which they both contribute and from which joint expenses (like mortgage payments, utility bills, etc) are paid. Never ever let anybody have total control over your finances.

3. Manage Your Credit Wisely

Proper credit management isn’t actually, philosophically speaking, difficult. Pay your bills on time (early is better) and try not to charge more than you can afford to totally pay off within a couple of payments. Unfortunately, philosophy can only take you so far. Losing a job, unforeseen medical expenses, having to replace household items that have been irreparably damaged, all of these things cost money that you might not have and so, most of the time those expenses get put on a card.

The key to keeping your credit under control in these situations is to negate the interest. In other words: the minimum amount you pay should be whatever the minimum amount due is on the bill statement plus whatever you were charged in interest for the last month. This way you’re paying off your interest and actually paying down your balances.

4. Learn the Difference Between Wants and Needs

This is something that people of all genders need to learn how to do, not just women. Where most people get tripped up is in thinking that learning the difference between wants and needs means the same thing as “learning to go without” or “learning to deal with deprivation.” This isn’t true at all!

For example: you’ve just been hired to a new company with a stricter and more upscale dress code than your last job had, which means you need to buy some clothes. Unfortunately you can’t afford all of the high-end designer wear you’re sure everybody else is wearing, but you feel like you have to buy it anyway so you’re tempted to put it on a credit card.

Stop!

First, unless you can actually see the label on someone’s clothing, you cannot prove that they spent large amounts of money on what they are wearing. Second, you need nicer clothing. That does not mean that you have to shop at fancy and expensive shops to get it. Vintage shops, thrift shops (particularly those in wealthy neighborhoods) are great places to find the look you need for much less than you’d spend in a designer’s shop. And if you take really good care of your finds, nobody will care that you bought them at discounted rates. Over time, as you can afford it with your new salary, you can start buying designer wear one or two pieces at a time. Go for things that can be mixed and matched and you’ll stretch your budget even further. You know the drill.

The point is: you can figure out how to manage your money, keep your credit in good standing (and build it up further) without having to resort to a life of deprivation. Educate yourself, create a plan and then stick with that plan to pay down your debt and raise your score. It’s hard work, but you can do it!

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