It seems as though you can’t buy anything without credit these days. Even if you have the cash on hand and can pay right there in-store, they won’t sell you the couch or tires or whatever it may be unless you’ve got a good credit score. Credit is helpful in a lot of ways, since it allows you to purchase an item and take it home without having to pay the full amount up-front, but it’s also easy to make a wrong move and cause your credit score to plummet.

Bad credit isn’t the end of the world and can definitely be reversed, but it may require some serious lifestyle changes to get back on your feet. You may be thinking, “I’d rather read hedge fund news or find out what the SEC thinks about cryptocurrency,” but although those are worthwhile financial subjects to explore, they won’t help you build your credit back up.

If you’re looking to repair your credit score and get it back up fast, here are six things you can do to improve your score as quickly as possible.

  1. Check your credit. The best place to start is knowing exactly where your credit score stands. There are tons of free sites out there that let you check your credit score, just be sure to use one that is secure and trusted. Once you know your score, you’ll know exactly how far you need to raise it to reach your goal or attain the score you need to be in good standing. Be careful when checking your credit, though, since checking too often or through certain sites can put a ding on your credit score, causing it to drop a little further.

  2. Determine why your score went down. If you don’t know already, you’ll need to take a look at your credit history to find out exactly what it was that made your credit score drop. There are a number of different factors that can affect your credit score. Things like missed payments, maxed out cards, tax liens, and collections can all be the reason your score dropped to where it is. Perhaps your ex didn’t pay that bill or your identity was stolen. In either case, your credit score could drop and cause trouble when you go to apply for a line of credit.

  3. Set up autopay or create payment reminders. If you haven’t already, it’s important to set your credit card bills to be paid automatically or to have reminders that let you know (in advance) you need to pay a bill. It’s easy to forget about making a payment and accidentally skip a payment or remember a few weeks after the due date, causing late fees and penalties. Although it may be an accident and may not seem like a big deal in the moment, missed payments could cause major issues for your credit score.

  4. Reduce or pay off debt. Whether it’s debt from student loans or the last few car payments left on your vehicle, it’s important to reduce any debt you have as much as you can or pay it off entirely if possible. Having too much debt can cause your credit score to drop dramatically and can even keep it down while you’re working so hard to bring it back up. Although it might take a lot of discipline and some lifestyle changes, paying off debt will improve your credit score and give you peace of mind.

  5. Only buy things you can pay for with cash. This is another lifestyle change challenge; if you’re used to buying everything on credit, this might be difficult to do. Only buying things you can pay for with cash will keep your debt lower and help you pay off any credit card debt you have faster. Even small purchases like gas or treats for the office should be avoided unless you have the cash already on hand. Although that new couch or TV may have to wait a few months, your sacrifice will boost your credit score and help you practice patience (it is a virtue, after all). 

  6. Hire a lawyer if necessary. Depending on the reason your credit score dropped and how difficult it will be for you to bring it back up, it may be best for you to hire at trusted lawyer. Some law offices offer a free review of your credit report summary and free credit repair consultations. Lawyers with the specific knowledge and expertise to help you get your score back up can even help you improve your score faster than you would have been able to boost it on your own.

Bad credit can be a roadblock and a pain to fix, but it doesn’t have to be as long and difficult a process as it might seem. But the longer you wait, the harder it will be. 

What is the best advice you’ve received to help improve your credit score?

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