Hi, readers! I’m Lucy Duni, mom to a beautiful 18-month-old son and education director for new online financial management tool zendough.com by TransUnion. From one parent to another, I know that credit can be as confusing as raising kids … so allow me to help clear up a few issues.
With a full time job, a child and a household to run, credit may not be top-of-mind with everything else going on in your world, but it is important to remember that your daily financial obstacles and decisions help determine your credit score – that little three-digit number that can make or break the rates you get on mortgages and auto loans, for example.
To help you out, I wanted to share a few of zendough’s secrets on maintaining good credit by following much the same thought process you probably use to raise your kids.
- Make paying your bills a routine, just like feeding your family. Late payments on your bills are, as you might say to your toddler, a big no-no. Just as you put food on the dinner table at dinnertime, when bill payment time rolls around, be sure to pay at least the minimum amount. A history of late payments – even by a few days – may hurt your credit score.
- Spending is like sugar: keep it to a minimum. You don’t give your kids an endless supply of sugary snacks, because you know it’s not good for them. Credit is similar. Things like spending outside your means and keeping high balances on credit cards can have a negative impact on a credit score, because they’re unhealthy financial habits.
- Let your credit rest. After you put your kids to bed, the last thing you want is to have them wake up every five minutes, because they won’t be in good shape for the next day. In a similar fashion, your credit needs a rest from applications for new credit and loans in order to be healthy and ready the next time you really need it. Opening many credit accounts, such as store credit cards, in a short period of time can make your credit score droop like a sleepy child. A couple of notable exceptions: multiple inquiries for a mortgage or auto loan over a few week period are typically combined as just one inquiry each, enabling you to shop for good rates without worrying about hurting your score.
- Parents also need to be on their best behavior – in the eyes of the lender. When your kids are on their best behavior in public, it reflects well on you as a responsible parent who is in control. When you use credit responsibly, especially over a long period of time, lenders see that you are in control of your finances, and they are more likely to offer you favorable rates on credit and loans.
- Give your credit room to “play.” Just as healthy kids need space for creative play, a healthy credit score depends on keeping some space between the balances on your credit cards and the total amount of credit you are allowed to access on those cards. A rule of thumb is to keep these balances at or below 30% of the total available credit (for example, a balance of $300 or less on a credit line of $1,000).