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Ask the Bitches: What’s the Difference Between Credit Checks and Credit Monitoring?

The world of personal finance is full of terms designed to confuse and waylay the innocent. Yet you are a beautiful and mysterious adventurer on the exciting journey of life! You do not have time to parse the different meanings of seemingly synonymous financial terms like “credit checks” and “credit monitoring.”

Fortunately, we’re a coupla’ nerds with nothing better to do.

Recently, an anonymous follower (we’ll call them “Pudding Cup” because I assume that, like pudding, they are both sweet and smooth) asked:

Dear Piggy and Kitty, I have a question. I just got an email from the auditing office of my state saying that the unemployment filing host “Accellion” was hacked and they don’t think anything happened, but are offering a free year of credit monitoring. I have no idea what that would do or how I would use it to make sure nothing bad happened? Also doesn’t monitoring your credit (somehow?) make it worse? Would this be helpful or not really?

In short, Pudding Cup has mixed up two distinctly different concepts to do with credit: credit monitoring and credit checks. I’ll detangle the two below.

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Case Study: Held Back by Past Financial Mistakes, Fighting Bad Credit and $90K in Debt

Case Study: Held Back by Past Financial Mistakes, Fighting Bad Credit and $90K in Debt

Hi, it’s me again—your Good With Money Friend! It’s time for another case study. This time we’re talking about how to recover from past financial mistakes.

You guys really enjoyed our first case study. It tackled problems related to student loan debt, employment instability, and paying through the nose for rent in a high cost of living area. I’ve been hoping to do another one, but all of my friends’ most recent money issues have been too specific to their situations to be helpful to a broader audience.

Until now!

A friend reached out, asking for help repairing her damaged credit score. So she scheduled a 30 minute call with me to discuss her options, because I’m literally that bitch.

Obviously it turned into a ninety-minute call, mostly because I love the sound of my own voice. (Vocal fry ’til I die!) But really because the more we talked, the clearer it became that her credit score wasn’t her main enemy on the battlefield for financial stability. It was like a machine gun a mile away: an easy threat to identify, making a huge racket and scaring the shit out of everyone, but not actually that threatening in her present circumstances.

If you’ve struggled with debt, or you want to hone your Good With Money Friend skills, read on. Hopefully hearing about her situation will help some other folks!

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We get many letters from 18 year olds like "I submitted 9 applications and no one will give me a credit card!" Here's the reason for that.

A Hand-Holding Guide to Getting Your First Credit Card

I got my first credit card at age eighteen. I was a high school senior, I’d just been accepted into college, and the world was my goddamn oyster (just slightly less like salty snot). The year was 2005… and getting that shiny little piece of plastic was just about as easy as putting out my hand and asking for it.

Times have changed. We now live in a post-2008 Recession world, and getting your first credit card has become markedly harder. This is probably why we constantly receive questions from eighteen-year-olds like “I’ve submitted nine applications and no one will give me a credit card. What do???”

The Ramseyan debt purists will say “Do without it, you fool!” But we believe a credit card can be an extremely useful weapon in your financial arsenal. Just look at what happened when Kitty and her boyfriend tried to rent an apartment together and couldn’t because he had no credit!

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Podcast Episode 003: "My parents have bad credit. Should I help by co-signing their mortgage?"

Season 1, Episode 3: “My Parents Have Bad Credit. Should I Help by Co-signing Their Mortgage?”



When life stresses me out beyond belief, I find nothing more soothing or rejuvenating than reading about petty dramas I’m not personally involved in.

Neighbors feuding in all caps on Next Door; running blogs dragging the shit out of marathon cheaters; Facebook mommy groups erupting into explosive schisms over international geopolitics. Ahhhh… reading them is like slipping into a warm bath. So juicy! So low-stakes! With so much to fret about in my life, it’s nice to pause and contemplate the completely optional frettings of random other people I will likely never meet.

Which is why I love Reddit! And I’ll occasionally pull random questions that feed the drama-devouring beast within me interest me! Today’s question was found on r/personalfinance, a board where I lurk on the reg for obvious reasons…

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Another recession is coming.

Ask the Bitches: How Do I Prepare for a Recession?

We’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about a hypothetical looming recession. The stock market has taken a bruising; bellwether companies are stumbling. Do such omens and portents mean that another recession on its way?

The good news is, we can answer this one very easily.

Yes. Another recession is coming.

We know this with 100% certainty.

How?

The same way we know with 100% certainty that Piggy and I will be dead within the next hundred years. It is in the nature of a living being to die, just as it is in the nature of economies to grow and contract. The sun rises; the sun falls. The tides go in; the tides go out. It’s just the way things are.

Sounds kinda shitty, right? It’s possible that, someday far in the future, someone will devise some new system that will smooth out or even eliminate these cycles. Maybe the nature of goods and services will change so fundamentally that economies will transform in ways we can’t even imagine. But that’s Phillip K. Dick stuff—innovations that live so far in a hypothetical future that they’re still science fiction. You should plan to endure these market cycles throughout your lifetime.

And yes, there are lots of things you can do to make yourself more prepared. Let’s go through them.

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As best I can tell, there are two likely reasons for the prevalence of this misconception. Sadly, they both link back to perfectly true, but often misunderstood, facts about how credit works.

Let’s End This Damaging Misconception About Credit Cards

I don’t know who started the rumor that carrying a balance on credit cards is good for your credit score, but I think they should be drawn and quartered.

You shut your pie hole, Poppins. This is serious.

Of all the damaging misconceptions about personal finance we’ve had to correct over the course of running Bitches Get Riches, this is by far my least favorite. And it keeps popping up again and again in questions from our followers! Why? How? Who is teaching all of our darling kangaroo babies such a terrible way of handling their credit cards?

Until I can find the culprit and give them their just desserts (hot oil? The rack?), I have made it my mission to set the record straight.

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Here are five easy, lightning-fast things you can do right fucking now to help your financial situation. DO THEM.

5 Easy Things You Can Do Right Fucking Now to Help Your Finances

When you wake up from the capitalist, consumerist nightmare that is our socioeconomic system (#SJW #eattherich), the thought of getting your financial shit together can be daunting. Where do you begin? What can you do right away to make an improvement in your financial prospects? How do you avoid fucking everything up even further?

It can all be a bit overwhelming.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Here are five easy, lightning-fast things you can do right fucking now to help your financial situation. Do them.

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Let's break the Equifax situation down into tiny morsels of suckitude that can be easily digested.

Dashit Just Happened, Equifax?

Because the horrendous disaster of two malicious hurricanes isn’t enough for people to worry about right now, a few weeks ago a storm of a different sort swept through the United States. Like those assholes Harvey and Irma, this one’s going to be an enormous, life-changing financial burden for millions of people. And like the hurricanes, it could take years to repair the damage.

Yes: it’s time we talked about the Equifax breach.

If you follow us on Tumblr, you’ll know we’ve been getting some panicked messages about Equifax recently. So to dispel panic (or encourage it, as the case may be), I want to break the situation down into tiny morsels of suckitude that can be easily digested. Read More

Dafuq Is Credit and How Do You Bend It to Your Will?

We’ve been getting a lot of variations on the same question recently: “How dafuq do I credit?”

How indeed? A lot of our readers are struggling with not only maintaining a good credit score, but with even understanding credit in the first place.

It’s one of the many money terms I have the sneaking suspicion everyone else in my high school class was taught on a day I was absent.

Thus, I’ve been left to figure it out for myself over the years. And what I’ve found is reassuring: credit is not nearly as scary or complicated as you’ve been led to think. But like a pack of trained raptors, it must be treated with care and attention lest it rend you limb from limb.

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If you're confident in your ability not to abuse it, raising your borrowing threshold will give your credit score an instant boost.

How to Instantly Increase Your Credit Score

One of the ways you can improve your credit rating is to lower your credit utilization ratio, that is: the amount you owe compared to the amount you could borrow.

It’s usually better to just pay down the principal, but sometimes that’s not possible. If you’re confident in your ability not to abuse it, raising your borrowing threshold will give your credit score an instant boost.

I’d assumed this was a complicated process requiring some degree of cringing, but it turns out increasing your credit limit is extraordinarily easy. This method was described to me by an educator in my city’s free first-time homebuyer program. I will try to transcribe it exactly as she said it:

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