Why Having Bad Credit Probably Saved My Financial Life
Look. I will be the first one to tell you -- as someone who is attempting to repair her very damaged credit -- that trying to fix credit is much harder than I ever thought possible. I had collections on my credit, for very small amounts, mind you, that I have been trying to remove for literally years. I am talking $100 for a library book, people. But my bad credit goes back all the way to the ripe old age of 19.
I remember in college, my very first credit card. The person at Target, which is crack to teenage college girls, asking if I wanted to save 10% on my purchase. Sure! I naively replied. Ten minutes later, I had a credit card with a $300 limit. And instead of leaving with whatever item I had gone in there to purchase in the first place, I walked myself back into the home decor section and proceeded to immediately max out my card, purchasing all kinds of goodies for my dorm room. I had a job making barely any money, I had no idea how to be financially responsible, but I had the cutest dorm room on the hall! Due dates came and went, and I didn't even pony up the minimum amount due. Suddenly, I had a collection on my very new credit for $500 (I am guessing, I didn't have a clue what was happening to my credit at the time.) I got notices in the mail, phone calls. What was my solution? Ignore and deny. That became my MO for everything, mainly because I had no money, and I didn't how how to pay it back, so instead of talking to them and working something out (which took me a good decade to be good at and boy, am I a pro at it now), I just ignored it. I moved out of my college apartment with a remaining AT&T phone bill. Ignored/sent to collections. I applied for another credit card, sent to collections.
For years, I just never seemed to care what I was doing to my future ability to get a car or a home. And I never wanted to know, either. I knew it was bad but never wanted to face the facts and look at reality, so I just kept ignoring. That didn't mean it wasn't on my mind constantly. I would feel guilty spending money on anything when I kept getting notices and never opening them, knowing I could probably be spending the $30 I was about to spend going out out on paying something for my debt. But I just never did. I attempted in 2006 to fix my credit and was surprised to find that while it was not as bad as I thought it was -- I was probably only in debt about $4,000 -- it was so many derogatory accounts that I got overwhelmed with it all and gave up. I was scared to call a creditor, as they'd scared me into thinking they could garnish my wages (ILLEGAL!) so now, I was petrified my checks were going to start to get taken from me. I lived in constant awareness of my financial situation but never doing anything about it. I even allowed myself to think, when I began reaching my late 20s, that no man would ever accept me with a credit score of 550 (or whatever it was), and I continued to date horrible men who treated me badly. I even began getting swindled by fake collections bills, because I had never bothered to ensure which ones were actually bills I owed.
When I turned 29, I met the man I was going to marry. He and I both had bad credit, but surprisingly, no really large amounts of debt. We didn't have credit cards, we lived in apartments, and we were forced to begin thinking about our future. Within the last two years, my mindset has changed 180 degrees. I began paying back the debt I owed and attempting to remove the negative off our credit. We started paying things on time. We both got credit cards with $300 limits that are paid off each month. We still haven't had much of an increase in our credit score, which is frustrating, but I can tell you exactly what is on our credit, exactly what our score is and exactly which accounts are