How to get and keep a good credit score

Even though I still owe about $1500 on my credit cards, when I checked Equifax in May I had a 737 score. That has inevitably dropped a bit because I applied for another credit card (to be explained tomorrow, it’s only for a balance transfer, don’t stone me), but that should give you an idea of what my credit looks like.

Considering I had a high debt-to-credit ratio when my information was reported, and that I won’t have 2 full years of credit history until September, that is pretty damn good.

Many in the personal finance world are adamant that you shouldn’t worry about your credit score. Since no one wants to be in debt, there’s no reason to care right?

I understand their points, but I disagree to an extent. I agree that no one should maintain a good score just to be able to rack up consumer debt easily, like car loans and credit cards; after having to cut down on so much just to pay my debts and STILL not being done, I never want this experience again. However, good credit helps in numerous areas of life.

For example, people with good credit scores get better mortgage rates. In the greater Toronto area, the housing market is solid for now. The average home in my neighborhood costs $400 000, and I’m half an hour east of the city. You’d need a down-payment of $80 000 to even get considered for a mortgage in my area; very few people can cough up that kind of money, let alone a higher down payment. A good credit score can save a buyer thousands in interest over the years. Good credit can also drop the amount needed as deposits for services, allow you to rent an apartment (my credit is probably the number one factor in why M and I were accepted for our place), and even be the tipping point on a decision to hire you. If you are interviewing for a job in the financial industry and it’s a choice between you and someone with identical credentials and a better credit score, the other person is likely to be hired.

I haven’t done much right with my finances, but keeping my credit score high is something I’m proud of. Here’s how I did it.

I pay my credit card bills twice a month and pay more than the minimum.

I get paid biweekly, and I have just never mastered doing a monthly budget; it gets complicated. I prefer to work my finances on a two week basis. What I do with every bill over $30 is split it in half, and pay out to them twice. I pay my bills as soon as possible after I receive funds. Since they are paid every two weeks, I never incur late fees and I never get red flags on my report. Even with my phone bill, where I don’t know the exact amount of what I’ll owe until the middle of the month, I estimate. Also, with my credit cards, I have never paid minimums. Even when I was maxed out, I’d always put at least $300 from each pay towards my debt. It was partially because I was lying to myself (“see, I’m paying it off!”), and partially because I knew I just wouldn’t remember the due date. However, it has really helped with keeping my score high. There aren’t ever any lates on my report.

I limit my inquiries.

I have a friend who applies for lots of credit cards just to get the rewards they offer, and then never uses them beyond the initial gum purchase needed to activate it. I can’t do that. That’s not only for the obvious reason (recovering credit addict, no way), but because numerous inquiries wreak havoc on your report. When you apply for a lot of credit in one sitting, loan and credit companies assume you’re scrambling for money and need credit to dig yourself out. Hey, it happens, and they’re right to be cautious of that. I don’t ask for credit very often, but in the past month I have two inquiries; one from a bank about a credit card to transfer my balance and save some interest, and one from the realty company I’ll soon be renting from. That’s the most I’ve ever had on my report in one month. I actually have only applied for new credit every 9 months or so. Apparently that looks good.

I pull my credit report and look through it as much as possible.

I’m anal about my credit. It’s my baby. Seriously, ask my mom. I brag so much about my score that she knows my credit history by heart. So when I get a chance to check my history, I do it. At least every six months I send away for my report. I stare lovingly at all the R1s for a few minutes, and then start picking meticulously through every single word and number to make sure there’s nothing that I didn’t initiate. My mom was a victim of identity theft before I was born when someone got a hold of her SIN number; that’s all it took. Plus, once your identity is stolen, apparently it’s a special kind of hell trying to get people to believe that you didn’t mortgage a house in Nigeria using goats as collateral. Because of that, I check EVERYTHING with a metaphorical fine tooth comb. I haven’t had any issues as of yet, thank god. However, always look; if you catch erroneous entries early you can isolate the damage.


The above is obviously just how I handle myself, but it has worked really well for me so far.

Does anyone else do things differently, or have some extra tips?

First full day of summer, baby!

I plan on spending a lot of time here this summer.

Although my summers have changed drastically since I graduated high school in 2009, I still get excited every time temperatures creep above 25 (Celsius in good old Canadia). Up here in Toronto, summer is coming in like a lion- yesterday it felt like 109 Fahrenheit with the humidity. That’s why I find it hilarious when people think Canada’s always cold; our summers are just as harsh as in the US.

Either way, summer has always been a magical time for me, whether there’s three months of vacation or not. Every year I plan to have the BEST SUMMER EVER, and this year will be no different. My friend over at Budget & the Beach posted some questions that she is asking herself this week to prepare for summer, and I thought they were really thought-provoking. They originally appeared on Mind Body Green.

How has the start of summer made you thirsty for your greatest happiness?

I love warm weather. Come on, I live in Canada- when we hear stories about schools shutting down in some states because of three inches of snow, we laugh hysterically. 14 Fahrenheit to me is slightly chilly. When the sun comes out and I can finally wear a tank top without a sweater, something in me lights up. I actually want to get up and do things- you won’t catch me exercising much in the winter, but in the summer I’ll go on a 6 mile bike ride and not bat an eyelash. Instead of holing myself up in my house, the warmth and sunlight gets me out and moving.
What new steps are you taking that are really important to you?

I’m taking the steps to be a lot more organized and work more efficiently, which gives me more time to do things for myself. Even if I don’t get everything accomplished that I had hoped, lately I have forced myself to take at least one hour a day to just exist and do whatever I want. I’m also trying to be a lot healthier, because if I take care of my body it will take care of me.
What are you nurturing that really matters to you?

Lately I’m nurturing my self-esteem in numerous ways. I often don’t really like myself for various reasons, so I’ve been attempting to eat healthier, dress well, treat myself to (cheap) haircuts, and take care of my appearance. I’m also taking the time to really try to excel at anything I do, because that helps my self-esteem as well.
What are you doing to stay creative?

Obviously this blog helps. I’m a little rusty with my writing (I’m an accounting clerk, gimme a break), so I’ve been taking the chance to hone my skills back up seriously. I also had a CRAZY idea for a novel yesterday, and I’ve been tinkering with the details of that in my head. I might write it all out just for practice, because even with all my accounting plans, I’ve always known I want to be a writer. Really, I’ve always known that. With every career change I thought about when I was a kid, I planned to write about it. I’d say “I’m going to be a vet- and then write a book about being a vet!”, or “I’m going to be the lead in Riverdance- and then write a book about being the lead in Riverdance!” I kid you not, I did that.
What are you excited about right now?

I’m excited about my upcoming move, picking my classes for next semester in July, spending time with my friends this summer- I’m excited about a lot, to be honest.
Where are you growing?

I’m growing intellectually and emotionally. With every day that goes by, I feel like a better me.
What 3 things are you fired up to do this summer?

I’m fired up to finally move, see The Tragically Hip and Death Cab for Cutie in concert on June 30th, and have new experiences with my loved ones.
What role does imagination have in your life?

Imagination is all I have, and it’s what gets me through. I dream about what I can accomplish, and I know I can do as much as I put my mind to doing.

Those are really great questions, and they’ve made me even more excited to start the season off right!

Tonight I’ll be doing one thing, and one thing only- sitting on my porch with a good book, watching the sun set on the beginning of another glorious summer, brimming with opportunities to seize.

I hope everyone’s having a wonderful day!

I’m now on Twitter!

I completely forgot on my last post, but in case anyone is interested, Financial Confessions of a Former Brat is now on twitter.

If you’re so inclined, go log in and follow @FCFBBlog.

Hope everyone’s hump day was as painless as possible!

The organization continues…

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m a bit of a slob. I’m always losing things, which causes my stress to skyrocket. Things are eaten by my purse, my suitcases, my desk, and my bedroom because until recently I have never, EVER put anything back. I’ve always been very relaxed about where things go, but lately I’ve been realizing that “controlled chaos” isn’t gonna fly for much longer.

So when I found a free minute at work, I got to work on the ultimate symbol of my affinity to sloth.

Behold, Meghan’s purse.


This once beautiful Tommy Hilfiger handbag is now a bastion of unneeded baggage- the place that projects go to die, if you will. I cart this with me all day, every day. At it’s worst, it weighed 10 pounds. Also, my purses never get emptied. Ever. When I get tired of the clutter, I switch the essentials over to a new purse. I also have a vintage Coach, a current Coach, a Nine West, various small clubbing purses and one brown handbag I got for $3 at Payless.

Before, I didn’t care how much stuff I carted. Now my time is worth money. When I have to spend 10 minutes digging for my iPhone in my purse because it’s on silent, that’s a problem. In a lifestyle where every minute is accounted for, I have no time for scavenger hunts caused by disorganization. Besides, I’m uncluttering my finances as we speak; why why not unclutter the rest of my life as well?

I dumped everything out and did an inventory of everything I had crammed into a space too small for any computer larger than a netbook. If you’ve read the Harry Potter books, Hermione’s expanding beaded handbag comes to mind.

I found:

  • 4 pens
  • Headphones
  • 2 iPhone chargers
  • Brush
  • Comb
  • Wallet
  • Nicorette gum and patches
  • Money Sense and Cosmopolitan
  • A gift certificate to a pub that my grandfather gave me 3 months ago
  • Tons of papers including credit card statements, pay stubs, to do lists, subscription offers, and mail that was never sent
  • A notebook
  • Cheque book
  • Kobo e-reader


This is my baby. I carry it everywhere. It holds up to 1000 books. It’s a bibliophile’s wet dream.

Out of the depths of organizational hell also came my makeup bag. So I inventoried the contents of that too, just for kicks.


  • 5 lipglosses
  • 2 mascaras
  • 1 liquid eyeliner
  • 1 pencil eyeliner (not shown)
  • 1 perfume stick (Clinique Happy, love)
  • 1 concealer
  • 6 eyeshadows, all in various shades of pink and brown
  • Eyeshadow brush
  • Blotting papers
  • 1 compact which is actually from Russia, and is probably one of the coolest things I own.

SERIOUSLY? I carry that much stuff every day for basically no reason? WHY ON EARTH DO I DO THAT?

I can’t put the papers left over where they belong until I get home, but it’s all now in a folder and I’ll be going over it all tonight. After some toiling, my purse looks much better. I believe that if my friends from high school could see this, they would agree that I’m no longer worthy of the nickname “Bag Lady”.


This year I have realized that I have to run my life like a machine. Everything in its place, everything with a purpose and everything contributing to a goal. Anything that hinders my goals gets tossed. Otherwise, the machine breaks down and it’s a costly mistake. The analogy is true whether I apply it to my career, my health, or my finances.

Does anyone else have a similar outlook?

How do you handle stress?

Lately, I’ve been under quite a bit of stress.

There’s my 40 hour work week, two classes a week for 3 hours each as well as an online course, assignments and studying for said courses. That adds up to over 60 hours, but that’s nothing new. I’ve been doing that for a year and a half now.

However, now that I’m moving, I’ve been dealing with an extra 10 hours or so a week dedicated to packing, figuring out logistics, downsizing my stuff, making decisions on what should be purchased first, etc. Everyone seems to have an opinion on how I should be doing things, which I haven’t necessarily been taking well. I went away for the weekend because I couldn’t handle being at home. S**t got too real, quite honestly. Since I’m so focused on preparing for my life after July 15th, when I no longer have to answer to anyone, I’m finding the nit picking I suffer through and having to walk on egg shells in my own home is getting really old. That’s why I tend to go away on weekends, and why everything has to get done during the week. After the entire week at work with my family, staying at home would drive me up the wall. My stress levels skyrocket the second I walk in the door at night. I am literally more stressed out at home than I am at work or school. I know it’s hilarious that my last post was about appreciating them, but let me be clear- I do appreciate them for what they have done for me. I just don’t appreciate always being blamed initially for things that are not my fault, not being apologized to when they’re proven wrong, not being given credit for the things I do, and getting screamed at over absolutely nothing.

So, I had a meltdown on Friday, and took off. I was still simmering all weekend. When I got home last night, I went straight to my bedroom and cleaned for an hour straight. I did my laundry, cleaned up my bathroom, packed anything on the floor that was still without a box, emptied my closet of the clothes I won’t need before the move… everything I could find went somewhere. After I finally had nothing left to do, I felt good. REALLY good.

It’s been a longstanding joke that when something needs to be done around the house and I don’t feel like doing it, I’ll call one of my exes and they’ll piss me off so badly that the place is sparkling once I’m done with it. I don’t know whether I clean to purposely forget what I’m mad at or if it’s that accomplishing something makes the pill go down easier, but either way, stress makes me really productive. When I’m stressed over a mistake at work, I take 15 minutes and clean my desk. When I have a fight, I rearrange my cosmetics “display” in my washroom. When a customer calls me just to complain, I get some homework done. It’s funny- in high school and university I used to have SERIOUS meltdowns where I would sob for half the day and be useless until the next morning. Now that I’m too busy to go MIA for 24 hours and I don’t have smoking to curb my stress anymore, I’ve noticed I just distract myself with something else. It may not even be healthy. I’m not sure whether I’m bottling, or handling frustration in a productive manner. Either way, it’s REALLY helping this month.

All I know is that I’m counting down the days before I can call my own shots, and tell everyone else to go to hell if they don’t like it- at home, not at work, of course.

Just 27 days to go.

How do you deal with stress?

Money woes, or why I’m thankful for my family

While deciding how much money I need when I move into the new place, I slightly miscalculated, and as a result I have no money to live off of for the next couple of weeks.

Here’s what happened: I knew that I needed $437.50 for first and last, and an extra $300 for furniture and miscellaneous expenses around the apartment, so I planned out my payments and savings accordingly. Well, instead of starting the lease on July 15th like we asked, we’re paying pro-rated rent from the 15th to the 31st, and then the lease starts August 1st. So I need close to $1000 instead of the $750 I originally planned for. I get paid tomorrow, and my money is ALL already gone- it’s all allocated towards payments and savings. Ugh!!! However, it’s okay. The sky will not fall. I’m taken care of.

Thank the lord I’m not paying rent (yet at least) or worrying about having enough to eat. My family does a lot for me and always has. I don’t buy groceries, my mom bought me Nicorette when I couldn’t afford it after I quit smoking (13 full days now, whooo), I have a roof over my head, a job, a car to get to school, and an internet connection. I’m so grateful for everything I’m given, and I hope that I’ve made them proud so far. If I had spent all of my money on stupid stuff, I’d be ashamed to ask for help; but as it is, they know how hard I’m working to get out on my own, they’re proud of what I’ve accomplished with my money (from the little bits I’ve told them, anyway), and I know they’ll help me if I need it. The only thing my mom will not do for me is pay my rent (nor should she).

Most of all, I’m extremely thankful that when I ask my grandfather to buy me some bread and lunch meat for lunch next week because I can’t afford it, he’ll do it without batting an eyelash.

With family like that, I can’t ask for much more.

Well. I want more money. But who doesn’t.

It’s T-minus 34 days until we move into our apartment, and I’m still reeling as far as how much stuff there is to do. I’ve lived on my own once, while I was in university. It was an apartment style, so I have some kitchen stuff, but it wasn’t exactly a grown-up atmosphere. Our kitchen table was used more for beer pong than actual eating, and the furniture was already there so I have none left over. This time M and I are going to live like adults, and we’ve already started planning our decorating. However, we’re both on a seriously tight budget. I’m going blind into this whole experience, and my planning tendencies are kicking into overdrive lately. Luckily, my mom is helping me out a LOT. She’s giving me a dresser, a bed (with an actual headboard!), and she’s buying us a table and chairs, pictured below (and tried out in person at Ikea, and we love it).


We’re allowed to paint and hang pictures, so we’ll be going with a beige for the common areas. I have no idea what I’ll do in my room yet. I was thinking of a lavender, but I don’t want to be painting every time I redecorate.

Our list of things we need to figure out in the next 34 days is as follows:

1. Make sure we do inventory and recheck our list so we have EVERYTHING we need.

2. Packing logistics (ugh).

3. How is food shopping split? Do we just buy our essentials together and go back later for whatever we want for ourselves?

4. Budgeting for food and making sure we save as much money on electricity as possible.

5. Getting paint and deciding when we’re doing that.

6. Since we move on a Sunday, figuring out if I can take the Monday off to help unpack and organize.

7. Figure out how mutual bills are paid.

This is on top of work, school, etc. Fun, fun, fun.

Is there anything else I’m forgetting that I’ll need to do? I’m so out of my element right now, it’s crazy.