The 6 biggest things you must know to boost your credit score

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What is your credit score and how to improve it

Don’t mind paying tens of thousands of pounds more than you have to over your life? Then don’t read this.

Credit scores: not fun, not sexy, definitely not easy to understand, but, they are pretty damn important. You may be struggling to care about yours right now, and I don’t blame you, but if you ever want a chance to buy a house, unfortunately they’re one of those things you can’t ignore, no matter how much you may want to, much like laundry, your boss and Donald Trump.

So, we’ve broken down the key things that you need to know.

What is a credit score?

It is essentially a measure of how likely a lender thinks you are to repay money borrowed. It predicts this based on a number of things, the main one being your previous credit payment history. People often assume that they have one, all-encompassing, credit score, but that is not the case. You are scored differently by each lender. They will, however, all look at your same credit file (compiled by credit reference agencies), in addition to any previous dealings they have had with you (and, of course, your application for whatever financial product you are approaching them for).

Why do I, or should I, care about mine?

Your credit score affects your finances in many ways.

Firstly, let’s consider loans. Your credit score can determine not only whether someone will lend you money, but at what rate. If the lender thinks you are high risk, you may be offered that loan (happy days) but well be charged a higher rate of interest (kind of takes the shine off it a bit, doesn’t it?).

Mortgages are loans (and yes, I know that you know that) and so a poor credit score could mean no mortgage and, therefore, no house. That’s pretty serious stuff! With the current economical situation putting getting a foot on the property ladder out of reach for so many anyway, don’t make things harder for yourself by letting your credit score stand in the way of that dream pad.

Want that fancy new iPhone free on contract? Well, tough; if you have a poor credit score that is. It’s sticking with Pay As You Go for you, then.

If you’re applying for a new credit card, your credit score can be important in determining not only whether you are given one, but your APR and whether you are offered any promotions.

How to improve your credit score

Phew, that is the technical stuff out the way. So, are you convinced that you should care about your credit score yet? If so, here are a few tips on how to improve it:

1. Don’t be late with payments.

I know, I know, this is obvious. However, it would be ridiculous not to include it in this list, given that it’s so very important. You may also be surprised at the consequences of just one or two late or missed payments. Setting up direct debits is the easiest way to ensure this doesn’t happen. Plus, it requires no effort from you (always a bonus) and you can’t forget.

2. Register to vote.

If you’re not on the electoral roll, you are unlikely to be given credit. Whilst the credit reference agencies do use the full register which everyone is on, by law, the electoral roll is often also used when determining credit scores. Even if it isn’t, as lenders also use it to help check your details, not being on it could cause you delays when applying for credit.

3. Get a credit rebuild card.

If you have a poor credit history, getting credit is difficult. However, you need to start building a good recent credit history, which obviously involves getting credit, in order to improve your credit score and be offered more credit in future. Tricky. Credit rebuild cards are a good solution here, as long as you use them correctly (otherwise they are a complete nightmare, so take note). They are available for those with a poor credit history but have ridiculously high rates of APR. However, you won’t be charged interest if you never use the card to withdraw cash and pay it off in full each month. Over time, this should improve your credit score.

4. Don’t do too many applications all at once.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll leave all “life admin” tasks for as long as you possibly can and then try and do everything all in one go – lurching from being horribly inefficient to smugly on top of things (briefly). This is not a good idea with applications for credit as every time you apply for any kind of credit, it is noted on your file for a year. If there are too many then lenders may think you are desperate for credit, leading to rejections.

5. If you do get rejected, check your credit file before applying elsewhere.

Simply applying again leads to more searches for credit which are, again, noted on your credit file and can lead to more rejections, prompting a tedious, and damaging, cycle of applications and rejections. The lender should tell you which credit reference agency it used, so contact that one. You have the legal right to see a copy of your credit report for £2. If you find an unfair default on your file, dispute it. Failing to do so could result in continued rejections for credit. Then also check whether the other two credit agencies have the same default listed too.

6. Cancel store and credit cards you no longer use.

Lender sometimes view you having access to too much available credit as a problem, even if you are not using it. However, if you have any long-term bank accounts which you haven’t defaulted on, these can be good for your credit score (I did say in the intro that credit scores aren’t easy to understand…), so maybe keep a couple of those open, but not too many. It’s a tricky balancing act, as with most things in life!

How to Save Money on Your Wedding

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How to save money on your wedding

Engaged? Congratulations – on your last few moments of having money in your pocket, I mean! Sorry, that was harsh. Seriously, getting married is, of course, a wonderful thing. However, no-one can deny that it is easy to overspend when planning your wedding; you simply mention the word and zeros get added to prices. I’ve been through this recently and so wanted to share a few tips (other than: if you want to test your relationship, plan a wedding together!) to help you stay within budget and avoid entering married life with unnecessary debt.

1. Get wedding insurance

My wife was reluctant to get wedding insurance as it’s an additional expense (seemingly having forgotten the “no pet insurance saga”). We were lucky I insisted because our marquee company’s warehouse burnt down two months before the wedding, with all of the marquees inside. This was not fun, as you can imagine, but it would have been worse if we didn’t take out that insurance. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst and all that…

2. Spend money on the things people notice

Do you remember what was decorating the tables, or hanging from the ceiling, at the last wedding you went to? No, no-one does. I, however, am still moaning about the wedding I went to a few years ago where they ran out of booze and I was hungry all day. Spend your money on the important things which will make or break your guests’ day, such as food, drink and shelter (either from the sun or, if you’re in England, the rain). You don’t need the little touches which hardly anyone will appreciate but can really add up.

3. Go for a weekday

At most venues, weekday weddings are far cheaper than the usual Saturdays. Yes, it means people may have to take a day off, but most people would do this without question (and if they wouldn’t, then they probably shouldn’t be coming anyway). Fridays, especially, are a good idea as guests can then have a long weekend (and more time to recover). Plus, you feel quite smug when you’re living it up at a wedding when everyone else is at work.

4. Negotiate!

This is another area where my wife and I differed. Whereas she considered prices to be set in stone, and didn’t want to ruffle feathers by asking for discounts, I took the view that everything was negotiable. Again, guess who was right? It doesn’t happen often, I should add (largely in case she reads this…). We may not have knocked hundreds of pounds off any one thing, but even small discounts here and there really add up when you are ordering things in bulk. And, when it comes to planning a wedding, any saving at all really does help!

5. DIY

Why pay someone else to do something if you can do it better (or just as well)? There are so many wedding-related things which you can DIY and you may even have fun doing it (note I said “may” not “will”). Things like bunting, decorations, invitations and even photobooths are all easily doable yourself.

6. Search for cheaper ways of getting the same results

This may sound like an obvious one, but bear with me. It is not always apparent that slightly altering the way you do things can have a big impact on price. This struck me most with our wedding cake. Did you know that to get a “fancy” wedding cake (you know, one with multiple tiers and icing flowers stuck to it, that sort of thing) for over 100 guests can easily set you back nearly £1,000?! Clearly, we should all be making wedding cakes for a living. A little bit of research and we discovered that a mountain of cupcakes, which look and taste just as good (seriously, who doesn’t like cupcakes?), is a fraction of the cost. Similarly, while your guests may well enjoy a midnight taco truck, I’m betting that they would be just as happy with a bacon sandwich and, if you have supplied enough alcohol, probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway.

7. Get help

People like to feel important. You want to save money. Do you see where this is going? Enlist the help of your family and friends and everyone’s a winner. I bet your Auntie Mildred makes a mean Victoria sponge – get her cracking on those aforementioned cupcakes. Have a friend who can DJ? Put him in charge of the music and save hundreds of pounds. Get your arty friends on the decorations and so on. Not only will this save you a packet, but you will find that it means more to you if it has been a team effort with your nearest and dearest.

8. Beg, borrow and steal

Okay, maybe don’t steal, but begging and borrowing is definitely allowed. If you have any married friends then ask them for tips and whether they have anything left over from their wedding which you can use. People love to give advice and you will find that they’re also are only too willing to shift those 50 tealight holders which are taking up space in the attic. Even if you have friends at both weddings, no-one will realise they are being recycled because, as noted above, no-one notices these things anyway!