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Financial Coaching

Financial Coaching and Consumer Credit

During times of economic uncertainty, it can be difficult to pay routine expenses without resorting to credit cards. Whether dealing with job loss, increased household size, inflation, unforeseen medical expenses, or whatever else might blindside you, there are be times when you may accumulate more debt than they had planned. While you may have the option of emptying your

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savings or borrowing against your home or retirement, a less devastating solution seems to be the use of credit to sustain your lifestyle. Still, using credit without being able to pay the principal balance can significantly scar your financial records. So, how can you use credit without ruining your financial future?

Fortunately, there are some things on which you can focus to maintain the best possible credit score for your individual situation.

Possibly the most critical item of interest in using credit wisely is recognizing which purchases to make. Particularly during tough economic times, it is beneficial to go into a sort of “conservation mode” with expenses. List expenses in two columns: necessity and luxury. Any item that is not necessary to the function of your home or family life should not be charged. The simple truth is: if you cannot afford it now, you will probably not be able to afford it later. Previous generations did not rely so heavily on credit to obtain the things they needed or wanted. Instead, they saved when and where they could until they could afford to pay upfront. This is a lesson that today’s generation could stand to learn.

Another credit trap that swallows people is the minimum balance illusion. Banks love when consumers only pay minimum balances, because they make such a substantial profit on

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interest payments. When dealing with creditors, pay as much as you possibly can, without hurting your family budget.

Additionally, a major mistake that consumers make is maxing out their credit cards. Ideally, it is best to keep your spending within 30 percent of a card’s limit. Much of an individual’s credit score is based on the total amount of debt he has accrued. Thus, lower balances equal a better credit score.

Many consumers simply accept whatever terms their creditors set for them. But, it often pays to negotiate. No proposed rate increase is carved in stone. Creditors want your business and most are willing to bend a little to keep it. Do not be afraid to mention better offers you have received, especially if you have been a customer for a long time. It is highly likely that you can receive a comparable rate to that of a competitor’s card.

One of the biggest mistakes consumers can make is skipping a payment. Notify your creditor as soon as you determine that you will be late or unable to make your scheduled payment. The vast majority of companies are willing to work with their customers. It only takes a few minutes to call and ask what options you have.

Too often, consumers make assumptions about credit without having any solid information as a foundation. When this happens, an individual’s credit rating can become severely damaged, requiring time and hard work to repair. The easiest way to protect your credit is by using common sense and caution.

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By Corey Quinn

Entrepreneur and online marketing expert

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