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Having a great credit score will not only save you thousands of dollars on interest over time, but it also gives you the flexibility to be creative on how you achieve your financial goals. The great news about credit is that anything you do can be undone over time, you just have to commit the time and energy to fix it.

If you have gotten into trouble with credit or you are still working on building your credit profile for a buying a home or purchasing a car, here are the top 10 ways to improve your credit score.

1. Pay your bills on time

This sounds like a really basic tip, however, it's one of the most important you can follow to maintain a strong credit score. On-time payments is one of the first things lenders look at when determining if they should lend you more money. If your record shows that you are good and consistent at making payments, then lenders are more likely to provide more. Delinquent payments and collections will always have a negative impact on your credit score.

2. Keep an eye on your credit utilization

Credit utilization is the amount of debt you have on your card over your available credit. If you have a card with a $1,000 credit limit, and you have $300 on the card, then your utilization rate is 30%. It is tempting to spend all of the credit you are allowed, but, just because a lender says you can borrow up to $1,000, does not mean that they actually want you to do so. Instead, you should keep your utilization rates between 30% and 50% as a general rule of thumb.

3. Apply for more credit

If you have a number of lenders willing to offer you credit, then chances are, you're a good bet for other lenders. Even if you don't need the credit, it can help your score and your overall utilization rate as other cards will increase your total credit available.

4. Diversify your types of credit

I met with a client recently who had no debt, no car payment and no mortgage and when we pulled her credit score, we were shocked that it was not higher. This client was penalized for only having one source of credit, which were her credit cards. Mortgages, car loans or home equity loans could help you diversify your types of credit.

5. Keep cards open

It is tempting to close cards that you are not using; however, those cards are actually quietly helping you improve your credit. If you are not using the card, then your utilization will be 0%, which is a great number. In addition, the card helps maintain your credit history, which is another component of your credit score. I had a client recently close an old account of hers and her score dropped over 50 points because her credit history was shortened based on the closing of the older account.

6. Check your score frequently

You can get your full credit report every year for free, however, there are other free sites you can check to get a good indication of your score, including outstanding accounts throughout the year. I like using Credit Karma, but Credit Sesame or Credit.com also provide free tools.

When you regularly monitor your score, you want to make sure that you are familiar with all of the accounts that are listed under your social security number. This is especially important for student loan monitoring as you can have more than 10 loans reported under your social security number, and if you lost track of any of those and missed payments, that would have a dramatic impact on your score.

7. Avoid store cards if possible

I believe that store credit cards, like those for Macys or J.Crew or Kohls are some of the worst cards you can apply for. They typically do not offer high credit limits, which don't help your overall credit available, but more importantly, it tells a lender that you like to shop because the only location you can utilize the card is in the retail store. You can't use the card for food or fuel.

Store cards also entice you to overspend because they typically offer 10% off entire purchases at the time of opening, which makes you feel as though you are getting a deal, but you should probably not spend the money anyway, which now makes the purchase 90% expensive.

8. Consider a secured card

If you have had credit troubles in the past and need to rebuild your credit, a secured credit card is a great way to get back on track, especially if the card provider allows you to convert to an unsecured card after a period of time. I consider the secured card like the learner's permit of the credit card world.

If you can prove that you are responsible and follow the rules of proper credit management, then one day you will be allowed to manage your account on your own without a cash secured safety net.

9. Apply for credit as soon as possible

Your credit history is an important part of your overall credit score so the sooner you apply for cards, the better. I opened my first card when I was a freshman in college so lenders can see that I have been a responsible user for almost two decades now. The sooner you start building your history, the faster your credit score will improve.

10.  Hide your card

At the end of the day, if you're struggling with maintaining good credit practices, don't be afraid to hide your credit card and pretend as though it doesn't exist. This will prevent you from increasing your credit utilization, and it will force you to focus on your spending as you will have to convert to a cash diet.

When I see clients start to get into credit card troubles, we discuss implementing this strategy. Sometimes the best bet to improve your credit is to not use it at all.

Originally posted on Financial Gym.

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Back when my husband and I were creating our wedding registry, it was a fun, low-pressure opportunity to select some new dishes and linens. After all, I knew a thing or two about stocking my home and making the "wrong decision" with thread count was the only thing that posed any risk to my sleep at night.

Fast-forward a few years to when I created a baby registry before the birth of my first child—and I found the experience to have a much steeper learning curve. Unlike those sheets, it felt like a bad swaddle or bassinet selection would be catastrophic. Unsure of what to expect from motherhood or my baby, I leaned heavily on advice from friends who already ventured into parenthood. (Starting with their reminders to take deep breaths!)

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Now a mom of three little ones under the age of four, I'm happy to be in a position to pass along some baby registry wisdom.

Go shopping with a veteran parent

As first-time parents, my husband and I barely knew the difference between a bouncer and a swing, let alone what specific features we would want. So when a mom friend recommended we head to Walmart to build my registry together—because she found them to carry the trendy brands she loved AND make registering a breeze during her pregnancy—I leapt at the chance.

By walking through the aisles together and actually getting to see the products, I was much more confident in my registry selections. Thanks to that quick, in-store tutorial from my friend, I understood exactly how to match a perfect infant car seat with an extra base and stroller—which is something I would have been clueless about on my own.

Include items at a variety of price points

When it comes down to it, a registry is really a wish list. So, while I had a personal budget for a stroller if it had to come out of my own pocket, this was an opportunity for me to ask for the stroller of my dreams. And, wouldn't you know it? A few family members went in on it together, which made a bigger price tag much more manageable.

At the same time, it's nice to include some of the smaller ticket items that are absolutely essential. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I was to skip buying my own diapers for those first few weeks. (With super cute patterns, these are also surprisingly fun to give, too!)

Think about the gifts you would like to give

The first time I bought a mom-to-be a gift after my own child was born, I knew immediately what to look for on her registry: a diaper bag backpack, which I had come to have very strong opinions about after battling falling straps with my first diaper bag. This allowed me to feel like I had a personal touch in my gift, even if I brought one pre-selected by her.

I also appreciate it when my friends clearly incorporate their style into their registry choices, like with adorable baby outfits or nursery decor—and there's no sweeter "thank you" than a picture from a friend showing your gift in use.

Ask for things to grow with your child

Even though it's called a baby registry, there's no need to limit yourself to gifts to use before their first birthday. (To this day, I still have people who attended my baby shower to thank for the convertible bed that my oldest child sleeps in!) Knowing that, I would have included more options with long lifespans into my registry—namely, a baby carrier that can be used during the newborn months, baby months and well into the toddler years. A well-designed baby carrier would have saved my back from serious pain because it would have allowed me to comfortably and ergonomically carry my toddler as she made her way into the 25lb+ club. One brand that's designed to grow with your baby and accommodates 7-45 pounds (up to about four years old) and offers both inward and forward-facing positions is Ergobaby. With several different design and style options, you can easily find one that caters to your parenting needs. From an all-in-one carrier, like the Omni 360, that grows with baby from the newborn stages into the toddler years or a newborn-specific carrier, like the Embrace (and don't worry you can later upgrade to a carrier for an older baby, I recommend the 360 Carrier). The best part? All ergonomic designs are supportive and comfortable for both baby and parent, offering extra lumbar support with breathable, lightweight mesh styles. Everyone (even grandparents!) can get a kick out of babywearing, which is a nice and welcomed break for parents. Having one of these on my registry would have certainly made those first few years so much easier.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This article was sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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