Plain, pure and simple advice from the guy with a credit score of 848

One day a Cleveland-area man walked into a Bass Pro Shop, and they offered him a credit card with a promotion that would pay the sales tax. The savings amounted to $50, so he accepted. A few weeks later, he received a letter in the mail informing him that his credit score was 848. Perfect score is 850.

 My credit score raises eyebrows when people see it, but mine is still a pretty fair distance from that.
This Cleveland Plain Dealer article has some down-to-earth advice from the guy with 99.7% credit.

1. Never charge something without having something to show for it.

I take that an extra step. I don’t like to spend money at all without having something to show for it, so generally I’m more likely to buy a $5 magazine than I am to eat lunch at a fast-food joint. I’ll learn something from the magazine. Lunch at a fast-food joint is mostly low-quality calories.

2. Never spend money without knowing when you can repay it.

I absolutely agree with that. If I can’t make a major purchase with cash, or with a credit card that I’ll repay at the end of the month, I don’t buy it until I have a plan for repaying it. And once you’ve gotten used to making plans, it doesn’t take long to make one. I had to have some very expensive dental work done a year ago and my insurance was only going to pay about 5% of the cost; I got second and third opinions of course. Once I knew the highest-price option was the only one that made any sense in the long term, I formulated a plan in my head for paying it back, then made my decision.

I got the work done without making any compromises to my long-term health, and without having to pay any interest on it. And I paid off the debt in May.

3. Pay your bills on time.

This one is pretty easy. I’ve forgotten a few times, so I put reminders on my calendar at work. My coworkers sometimes hassle me about why I have “Pay the electric bill” on my Outlook calendar, but since I started doing that 10 years ago, I think I’ve been late paying a utility bill exactly once.
I understand being late to pay bills. The bill comes, it’s due in two weeks, and two weeks is long enough to misplace it and forget it’s due. The next thing you know, there’s a nasty note from the gas company on your front door giving you 23:59 to pay the bill. And in some cases, they come and shut it off even if you pay it–at least if you live in St. Louis. It’s easy to forget, especially when it’s a $24 gas bill in May. For some reason, the bigger bills are easier to remember.
The key is to come up with a system that works for you for getting them paid. If it’s paying them the day it arrives, that’s great. If it’s putting a reminder on your computer like I do, I don’t see anything wrong with that. I’d rather have one of my coworkers say something than have a utility truck pull up to my driveway.
And it makes a difference. The only reason I can think of for my credit score to be lower than this guy’s is because I was a month or two late paying a few utility bills here and there a number of years ago.
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