Extra Credit

I have rotten credit. We’re talking can’t-buy-a-stick-of-gum-without-a-cosigner bad credit. It all started, as most credit problems do, with a gym membership. That was when I was about 19 and it’s been that way ever since. I managed to pull myself out of the muck enough a few years ago to get a car loan without a cosigner but that took lots and lots of searching and the sacrificial bleeding of many goats.

And despite my cavaliar tone about it, I’m not proud of my credit history. I’m downright embarrased. It really came to a head for me with my last girlfriend when I started thinking there might be a genuine future for the two of us and the last thing I wanted was to go into marriage being unable to get a mortgage, or car loans, or Tic Tacs. The worst part of it all is that much of it could have been avoided. Unlike the majority of people with bad credit, I don’t have any excuse. I didn’t suffer dibilitating medical costs, or lose my one and only job, or have to raise a family on a single income or anything like that.

No, I’m just bad with money.

It’s a lethal combination of my general scatterbrainedness and the inability to track where my money goes. Now I’ve never made more than $15,000 in any given year so my income certainly has been a factor in getting into this situation, but many people before me managed to survive and that kind of money without ever seeing their credit score dip below their IQ. This is the biggest reason why I moved back home.

But soon I’m going to have to go out on my own again. I’m too old to be living at home and its a very unnatural situation that wears relationships with my family and friends down to nubs. And I guess the first sign of being able to solve a problem is admitting there is a problem. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this kind of financial situation. I’m probably not ever going to be making much more money so it’s going to come down to being smarter about money and getting my head screwed on straight in regard to record keeping.

Anyone else out there fight this battle and win? Got any tips? Advice? Scams I can use?

10 thoughts on “Extra Credit

  1. Just know that you’re not alone. I’m too afraid to check out my credit score. I’ve been paying off my debts a little at a time (very little). I just need some extra money – that’s why I went part-time and became a writer! Oh, wait, shit that’s not going to help me.

  2. My wife saved me from a lifetime of penury. But here’s something I learned – carry a notebook, or whatever gizmo you kids cart around today – and write down every penny you spend on everything. Not only will you see patterns and places where you can cut back, but it will make you conscious of spending.Short of that, you could work 8-Mile as a hooker.Hey, worked for me.

  3. My only advice – never get a joint account, not even with your wife. Especially not with your wife. It sounds mean but will save you a lot of grief down the road.

  4. I disagree with Graham. (Sorry, Graham.) Not sharing an account sets you both up for being dishonest. We had enough marital problems when he would go out and put stuff on the credit card without my knowing about it – then there would be this $400 bill and no way to pay for it. (I’ve always preferred to pay off monthly balances.) We solved that problem by getting rid of the credit card.We do have separate accounts but mine is for my freelance business (to make accounting easier) and his is for fantasy baseball, eBay, etc. We keep each other up-to-date on the balances and we make decisions together. It’s OUR money, not his or mine.I hate gimmicks and gurus, but we did have good luck with Dave Ramsey, who is a Christian financial advisor. Very no-nonsense style and a good program that makes sense. Google his name for his website – I believe he still has a radio show.You can TOTALLY do this. You are in a great position, actually – no wife or kids or major assets to worry about, like a house. Best of luck!

  5. I don’t know if this is true, but I’ve heard in order to establish good credit you need to have, and actively use, credit cards, mortgages, loans, etc. As far as living at home goes, I don’t think it’s such a bad idea as long as you have a concrete goal in the works. Pay off some of your debt, get a reliable car, don’t borrow any money from family members, and get out.

  6. Male prostitution – the parties are great, and you can write off your collection of skin-tight leather pants as a tax break!On a more serious note, if you ever have cash to burn, the simplest way of improving your credit rating according to a banker mate of mine is to take out a loan – say $1,000 – and immediately pay it back. You’ll usually have to cover part of the interest it would’ve accrued, so say you end up paying back $1,200, but it’ll be a big happy mark on your credit history.And, yeah, to score big, you need to have stuff to measure your score on. I had a bitch of a time getting a credit card first time around simply through having no credit history at all.And I only wanted it to shop online at US websites.For porn.Donkey porn.

  7. Well, I hate to say this, but you need to start paying back what you owe. And if the current job doesn’t help, you need another job. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck where you are now. I can’t really be very encouraging about income from first novels either. You do those for love, not money. The other advice: yes, borrow and pay back to establish credit. No, don’t keep separate accounts from your spouse (what spouse???). And I’m sorry, but we all go through that sort of misery when we’re young.

  8. Two things-One, Terrenoire is right – keep track of every cent you spend, be it in a notebook or on a spreadsheet. It’s amazing to see how easily money is pissed away.And, more importantly, two – by saying “I’m just bad with money” you’re giving yourself permission to continue screwing up with money. It becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. Making financial mistakes in the last few years is no reason to continue making them. Bad credit can be fixed. Debt can be paid off. It sucks and it’s hard work, but it can be done – but you have to start saying “I used to be bad with money,” scrutinize every penny that goes out the door and think forward, not backward.Also – robbing banks helps…

  9. I agree with Christa about Dave Ramsey, Dave got his CDs (and he’s so not a listen-to-someone’s-cds kinda guy) and loved them all. He’s got great insight. Dave was already good with money, this guy just makes you better. he really encourages, doesn’t make you feel bad about what you’ve done. regardless of what you do, Dave Kuretich Financial Services would tell you this:1. Eliminate Debt.2. Establish Credit.3. Save.That’s really it. there’s no magical secret. If you want to get out of your black hole of debt, you gotta work to eliminate it. which may mean suffering for a bit, but it’s so worth it to get rid of that cloud of shame hanging over your head. I was horrid, HORRID with money until I got married. Now I have an allowance. 🙂 it works. or you could just marry a chick that’s great with money and not have to worry about it. One spouse is always the spender, and one is the saver by default. or else you end up living in a cardboard box or working til you’re 97.

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