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Repairing Your Credit Can Be A DIY Project

Shaulonda Jones points to a posting on her Facebook page that promised quick credit repair. “Nobody can promise they can fix it, and not quickly. You didn’t break it in one day, and you can’t fix it in one day.”

Jones should know. She was a financial coach for Toledo’s Financial Opportunity Centers for six years, and is currently Program Manager for Toledo LISC, which helped to establish the Centers. She has coached many Northwest Ohioans to better their credit scores with a step-by-step method that anyone can follow.

One step at a time

First, review your budget. This gives you an idea of how much money you have in order to conduct a budget repair. If you want more money to kill debt, then you might find it by cutting some spending.

Next, look at your credit report. You can get a free copy every 12 months from each of the three major reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) by using the free website www.annualcreditreport.com to pull up a report.

“A lot of times, people are scared of looking at it, and it’s not as bad as they think,” says Ms. Jones. Carefully review the report, and make sure that the information is up-to date and accurate— that accounts that you have closed are marked as closed and that there are no mistakes or fraud. If you see mistakes, then be sure to dispute them. Credit Karma provides a detailed how-to website for more information: https://www.creditkarma.com/credit-cards/i/dispute-error-credit-report/.

Once you know your situation, there are two methods that you can use to reduce debts: avalanche or snowball. In the avalanche, you line up your debts from the highest interest rate to the lowest, and pay off the highest interest bills first. If you choose the snowball method, then you can pay off the smallest balance bills first, then pay off the next largest, and so forth.

Other suggestions from Jones include contacting your creditors to see if you can negotiate smaller payments, even if only for a limited time. This could give you more money to pay other debts.

Make it good, keep it good

After fixing your credit, you can work to maintain it. You can stagger your free credit requests from the three reporting agencies so that you receive a different one each quarter, to see if changes to your reports are timely. Jones suggests that you keep your credit card debt down to 30 percent of the card’s limit. A bigger ratio can ding your credit. Try to avoid making a lot of credit inquiries, which ding your rating too. Jones noted that when you go to a car dealership with less than great credit, the dealer may make several inquiries for one sale, and this process will hurt you with the credit agencies.

Cleaning up your credit can be a DIY project, and if you want help, then Ms. Jones warns against firms that promise results and any companies that demand up-front payments. You can research the business with the Better Business Bureau at 419-531-3116.

If you want free help going over your report or getting credit repair, contact Ms. Jones at sjones@lisc.org to connect with a Financial Opportunity Center Office.

Shaulonda Jones, Program Manager for Toledo LISC,
offers away to better credit scores.

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