Money matters: 'I had no idea where to start nurturing my finances'

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We asked three women to divulge their personal finance diaries over the course of a month while getting to know their credit score. By using CreditWise by Capital One to see their full credit report and score, we’ll see what they learnt about their financial health and how they might be able to improve it. In this installment, teacher Judi shares what she’s learned about starting to manage her credit score and spending…

I’m in my mid-twenties, renting a modest flat in South London. About a month ago, I read that by my age I should have three months salary saved up, just in case something went wrong - something I’m *quite* a while away from. 

As a self-confessed finance novice, I decided to take on the challenge of keeping a money diary for a month, detailing what I spent, and using the CreditWise tool to help me understand my credit score.

While the chunk of my paycheck spent on my rent wasn’t that much of a surprise, my financial spread looked quite different to what I was expecting and what I learned along the way about my credit score even more so. 

Week 1

After a fairly calm week, which didn’t require much spending (apart from train tickets to a university reunion), it was time for the annual Eurovision finals weekend. 

I won’t divulge exactly how much was spent on themed cocktails, but it was a sizeable chunk of my weekly budget.

Thanks to that, money is already looking tight in the long run-up to pay day, so I’ll have to get creative. 

Already feeling a bit conscious about my finances this month, I logged onto CreditWise to check up on my credit score. Rather than panicking me more, it put my mind at ease a bit, as it said my score was in a pretty good place. Which helped me feel like I’m definitely doing something right when it comes to managing my credit!

I’ve had a credit card for a few years, and it seemed that always paying my bill on time had helped my score. It’s probably obvious to everyone else, but I hadn’t quite realised just how much this kind of thing influences your credit score. 

In one week, I’m already becoming more aware of my daily spending, and how often I decide to treat myself. My priority needs to be making sure I make the payments due on things like my credit card and utility bills every month, rather than having too much fun with Eurovision parties!

Blonde girl in a red dress walking her bike

Week 2

The second week of the month was pretty quiet. 

Schools are approaching exams, which doesn’t make much time for socialising after work for teachers across the country. Added to that, I was able to cycle to and from work every day because the sun has decided to show its face again, so I’d made a saving on travel, which was a bonus given my concerns last week.

I took some time this week to log back into CreditWise to get to understand what else was impacting my score, aside from making payments on time. My credit report won’t be updated for another couple of weeks - then it might change. But it did tell me some more information that I didn’t know about.

As I’ve only been on the electoral roll at the address for my flat for less than a year, apparently that holds my score back slightly. So staying at this address a little longer might help me out!

However, I’ve been on the electoral roll since I was 18, and that’s helping things along apparently. 

I hadn’t realised that being on the electoral roll could improve your score by being a proof of address, which helps lenders like banks make their ID checks.

Week 3

Approaching half-term AND pay day things are looking a bit tight, but I couldn’t resist a weekend trip to reunite with a best mate in Birmingham, so I spent £30 on a last-minute return train ticket.

Something I really like about CreditWise is the personalised tips to help you understand how you can improve your score. Within my tips, it explained that I’d used a small amount of credit and I’d managed it well. So, this will show lenders that I don’t just rely on borrowing money to get by every month.

Week 4

Keeping a diary made me realise just how much of my income was going on socialising. This is unlikely to change at the moment, but I think I’ll be more aware of it in the future – CreditWise has made me realise that if I don’t ensure I have enough at the end of the month to pay off those bills and miss payments, I might end up harming my score.

I learnt so much about the credit score side of things, and as I want to have a mortgage by 2020, CreditWise is going to be a great tool to help me get my credit score to a better place by then. 

I wasn’t aware that the length of time on the electoral roll at your current address would matter - and it might be something that could impact lots of young people in London who are likely to have to move rental properties regularly. It can affect your score because staying at an address helps to show stability to lenders.

I also realised that lenders can see a lot of information about your financial health and how you manage your money - much more than I knew myself. Even though they can’t see how I spend my money, they can get a good idea of how I manage it.

Going forward, I’ll be keeping a weekly total of what I’m spending and where, as well as making sure to keep an eye on my credit report through CreditWise

It might not change my spending patterns at the moment, but when I want to start saving more in the future, hopefully it’ll help to know where my money is going, and I’ll know what to prioritise.

To find out your credit score, see your full report and find out what’s affecting it for free, visit CreditWise from Capital One.