Q: I am a 25-year old single mom who will earn a B.A. in Education in May. How can I get rid of $15,000 in debt (not including student loans) and improve my credit after graduation?
A: To quickly knock out your credit card bills and boost your credit, try using these five strategies:
Step 1: create a realistic budget
Look at your income and your outgoing expenses closely to ensure that you are not overspending and digging yourself further in debt. If you are deficit spending (i.e. spending more than you take home), then slash your budget until your expenses are less than your income.
Step 2: contact your creditors and negotiate
As creditors for whatever you need — a lower interest rates, the elimination of late fees, over-the-limit charges, a change in your payment date, etc.
Step 3: start an emergency fund
Slowing building up an emergency fund or a cash cushion is a big step in avoiding debt and keeping your credit rating as high as possible. Even if you can only save $50 a month – do it. Your emergency fund helps you out of jam if any unexpected bills pop up. You will be able to have a little extra cash to handle those emergencies, without putting unnecessary expenses on your credit cards.
Step 4: only apply for credit if you absolutely need it
Anytime you open new loan accounts – i.e. credit cards, auto loans, etc. – an inquiry goes on your credit report and can lower your FICO credit score. Stay away from department store credit cards and other offers for credit that you really don’t need.
Step 5: Start tracking your recurring bills
Even if you don’t have traditional forms of credit like an auto loan or a mortgage, you can start to demonstrate credit-worthiness and build your credit rating by tracking those non-traditional monthly bills that you do have. Examples might be: the payments you make to your daycare provider, payments to utility company, rental payments, and so on.
Track these through Payment Reporting Builds Credit (http://www.prbc.com). This is a way to build your credit without taking out additional debt.
Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to quickly becoming debt-free and enhancing your credit rating.