- I’ve spent years moving around the US, renting homes for as little as six months at a time.
- To do that, though, I’ve had to maintain an excellent credit score to make me an appealing tenant for landlords.
- I keep my credit score above 740 by being diligent about paying all my bills on time, monitoring my credit report, and prioritising paying off any “bad” debt before “good.”
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Between 2012 and 2018, I rarely went on vacation.
Instead, when I wanted to see a new place, the first thing I did was find a job. These jobs have ranged from tourism gigs to nonprofit administration, to teaching jobs that lasted an academic year. I loved living this way; it allowed me to see what living in many regions of the United States was like before making any permanent decisions.
I learned a lot about my country and met interesting people in places like Oakland, California, Knoxville Tennessee, Moab, Utah, and Asheville, North Carolina before returning back to where I grew up in Baltimore, Maryland. As a freelance writer, this was my dream.
But moving cities a lot means having to find many places to live, sometimes on very short notice. I’ve rented many kinds of homes under a variety of terms – sometimes with a six-month lease, sometimes month-to-month, or sometimes for a full year. Often I would sublet, but as my standard of living improved and I wanted to live in nicer places, I had to pass a full credit and background check.
Even though I live a life of variable income that includes freelance work, student loans, and a credit card balance at times, I’ve never been turned away from a rental application. I stick to some basic bottom-lines to make sure my 740 credit score stays intact and freedom is always at my fingertips – here are the best tips I can give you on doing the same:
Always, always, always make on-time payments
Even when you’re broke. If you can’t make a payment, call your credit card company and ask for a one-time forgiveness – and come up with a plan to pay it (plus more interest) next month. Remember: one time means one time. We all need help on occasion, but don’t abuse this service. If you do, you’ll pay for it (literally).
Monitor your credit report
Rely on credit-monitoring services like CreditKarma or Credit Sesame to monitor your credit report and prevent fraud and theft that could set you (and your score) back years.
Use a credit simulator tool as motivation to keep your credit utilization ratio low
Plug in your ideal financial situation to envision what life will be like when you pay off your balances. Watching your hypothetical score go up is often the motivation you need to pay off any balances and keep your credit utilization ratio under 30% – the magic number for maintaining a high score.
A good credit simulator tool (Credit Karma has one) will let you see what adding debt to your report will do, as well as taking out any hypothetical car loans, consolidation loans, or major purchases.
Learn the difference between ‘good’ debt and ‘bad’ debt
Though all debt can be crippling, some types of debt affect your score more than others. Credit card debt is no good and you should eliminate it as soon as possible, while budgeting to make sure that if you use your card you have a plan to pay it off each month. But having student loans is not frowned upon by pretty much every landlord (they have been there).
Think long-term … eventually
Your credit score impacts your ability to move through the world. While living a life with inconsistent cash flow makes things interesting, maintaining a good credit score is not impossible. Inconsistency is not bad if you anticipate it – plan for droughts in times of abundance, and take care of what you can control without making excuses.
- Read more about credit:
- I have 26 credit cards and excellent credit. Here’s the best advice I can give you on keeping up your score, no matter how many cards you have.
- Checking your credit score should always be free. Here’s exactly how to do it.
- Paying off your credit card can quickly improve your credit score, but it has another benefit that might feel even more important
- How to freeze your credit to prevent fraud or identity theft
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