Build Good Credit Habits In 5 Steps

by Ron Haynes

Note: This article was included in The Carnival of Personal Finance at Squawkfox. Thanks!

As you build good credit, you’ll find that your bad habits are impossible to break. Yep, impossible. They always come back to haunt you. You can’t just break them and move on. You can’t truly “break” any habit…unless…you replace that habit with another. And it might as well be a good habit, right?

When you build good credit, it helps to think in terms of building a house: you start on the foundation and build it one brick at a time, one room at a time. But bad credit habits are like using paper mache instead of bricks. They appear to be okay, they look good, they’re easy and cheaper for now, but when the storms move in, they crumble.

You cannot build good credit with bad credit habits.

If you’ve relied on credit for your daily needs, and now it’s coming back to bite you through late payments, high interest charges, and that “downward spiral” feeling, you have a bad habit that needs replacing. Build good credit by replacing that habit with these five things:

1. Rely only on cash for your daily plans. Leave the credit cards at home (or cut them up) and carry only enough cash to do what you’ve planned for your day.
2. Design a new perception of yourself as someone who always pays bills on time and doesn’t need credit cards. That’s just “who you are” now. This is the most important of the five steps.
3. Plan for known upcoming expenditures (think: Christmas Club, quarterly insurance payments, personal property taxes, etc), by making regular deposits into an account for these items.
4. Build an emergency fund for unforseen events. Murphy will sneak up on you!
5. Always, always pay your bills on time.

Making your payments on time is THE best way to build good credit. As a result, you need to take notice if a bill doesn’t arrive in the mail. You cannot forget a single one! Even if you don’t receive a statement, you’re still responsible to make that payment on time.

Try using one (or more) of these methods to avoid any late or missed payments:

  • Keep a “bill calendar.” List all your accounts, including billing cycles, due dates, balances, and interest rates. List any quarterly, annual, or irregular payments as well as monthly ones. Then, take time to enter all your due dates into a paper or electronic calendar (like Google Calendar) checking it at least once a week to keep track. Allow plenty of time for mail delivery if you still send checks in the mail.
  • Use electronic reminders. Program your PDA, cell phone, email system, or financial software to remind you automatically when various bills are due. Google Calendar lets you schedule email reminders to yourself. Many creditors offer email reminders too, but don’t count on these! Sometimes a creditor’s biggest profit producer is late payments, so they have a vested interest in you being a few days late.
  • Enroll in automatic payment programs. Automatic payments, electronic funds transfers (EFT’s), or direct payments, authorize creditors to withdraw monthly payments directly from an authorized checking account. Auto payments are often used for utility bills and loan payments but are becoming popular with other creditors AND debtors.
  • As a final catch all to build good credit, you might consider credit monitoring. This is a service that I personally use as the final catch all for negative changes to my credit report (including identity theft).

When you build good credit, the key factor is YOU.

Your perceptions, your plans, and your actions are what builds it. You ARE in control, so seize the wheel and steer your financial vehicle to the land of wise choices.

[tags]build good credit, debt, habit, payments, reminders, money, loans, finance, credit[/tags]

About the author

Ron Haynes has written 1001 articles on The Wisdom Journal.


The founder and editor of The Wisdom Journal in 2007, Ron has worked in banking, distribution, retail, and upper management for companies ranging in size from small startups to multi-billion dollar corporations. He graduated Suma Cum Laude from a top MBA program and currently is a Human Resources and Management consultant, helping companies know how employees will behave in varying situations and what motivates them to action, assisting firms in identifying top talent, and coaching managers and employees on how to better communicate and make the workplace MUCH more enjoyable. If you'd like help in these areas, contact Ron using the contact form at the top of this page or at 870-761-7881.


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{ 4 comments }

Andy Wood

Ron, I think the point of “designing a new perception of yourself” is critical. We are the outgrowth of our thinking, and it’s stunning how our financial management both shapes and is shaped by our perceptions of ourselves, our creditors, and our circumstances.

How would you suggest a person go about this mental redesign?

Ron

#Andy Wood→
Actually, that’s another blog post! :D
It begins with the words we tell ourselves everyday and with the actions we take as a result of those words. Words are powerful things. They can cause marriages to start (“will you marry me”), nations to go to war, children to abandon their parents, and they can mend tattered relationships (“I’m sorry, please forgive me?”).

But, words only have power when we act on them.

I constantly tell my children that the words they tell themselves on a constant basis will help determine what kind of people they grow up to be.

Scary and exhilarating at the same time, no?

Fran Kerrigan

Where I get into trouble is with fluctuating due dates. I’d love to set up email alerts through Google, but I have a few bills where the due date changes by a few days every month. At the moment, I’m paying most of my bills close to the due date. Most of the time I go online and check the due date, since I’m paperless on most of them, but if I forget and assume, I’ve been late on occasion. I pay everything online that I can. Any suggestions? Thanks!

Ron

#Fran Kerrigan→
Could you set the reminder to pay at the earliest date it has been historically due? If you pay them online, you should be able to schedule your payments.

Thanks for commenting!

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