I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge fan of the credit score. But, I’m also practical enough to realize that most people can’t buy a home with cash. And since it affects so many other parts of our lives (insurance premiums, anybody?), it’s important to try to keep your credit score in good shape.

But, what happens once you’ve already destroyed your credit score? What should you do then?

Rebuilding your credit might seem impossible, but it’s not. By taking the proper steps, you can eventually get your credit score looking dapper again. It’s going to take time, but you really can do it! Here are 7 steps you can take to start rebuilding your credit right away.

Fixing Your Credit On Your Own

Fixing your credit score takes time and effort. Although it takes some leg-work, you actually can do it on your own. Just follow these steps:

Step 1) Understand Where You Are

Before you can fix your situation, you first need to understand what it means. Although there are a number of places that assign credit scores, when most people mention their “credit score,” what they actually mean is their FICO score. This is a particular credit score created by the Fair Isaac, Co. which is used by most banks when you apply for a loan. Generally, scores range from a low of 300 to a high of 850. Find out what your credit score is and use the list below to see how much work you have to do.

  • Excellent: 750 and above
  •  Good: 700-749
  • Fair: 650-699
  • Poor: 600-649
  • Bad: Below 600

See also: How Is My Credit Score Calculated?

Step 2) Obtain Your Credit Report and Correct Errors

Now that you know what your score is, it is time to take a look at your credit report. If your credit score is already low, you’ve clearly had a few problems with your payments. What you definitely don’t want is to have any mistakes causing your credit score further damage. Comb through your report and see if anything stands out. If so, call the creditor and ask them to fix it immediately. As a reminder, you are legally entitled to one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major consumer credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).

Step 3) Get Current

If you’re behind on any payments, now is the time to get caught up. Generally, most places are willing to work with you if you are willing to talk with them. Ask for a payment plan and get everything in writing. If the account is already in collections, try to make a deal. Most collection agencies will settle your account for pennies on the dollar. Of course, they aren’t going to accept your first bid, but hold firm and keep trying. They will come down eventually… and when they do, make sure that your agreement means that your account is marked “paid-in-full.” It is super important that you get all agreements in writing…and don’t pay a penny until you do. Furthermore, never ever ever give a creditor access to your bank account. Write them a check, bring them cash, or send them a cashier’s check. Period.

Step 4) Stay Current

It probably took a lot of work and saving money to get caught up. You definitely don’t want to blow it by falling behind again! It might seem obvious, but you need to make sure that you continue to pay on time. This isn’t just for mortgages, credit cards, and loans. It’s important to stay current on all of your bills to continue building a positive credit history.

Step 5) Don’t Close Open Lines of Credit

This might seem counter-intuitive, but hear me out. Although the largest part of your credit score is determined by your payment history (about 35%), there are two other important parts to your score that factor in heavily – credit utilization and length of credit history. In fact, when combined, these two categories make up 45% of your score. Your length of credit history is determined by the oldest account that you currently have open. On the other hand, credit utilization is the amount of credit that you’re currently using compared to how much credit you have available to you. So, if you have more open credit than what you’re using, your credit utilization score improves. Therefore, if you’re trying to improve your credit score, you want to pay these accounts off but leave them open (if possible). Make sense?

Step 6) Open a Credit Card

Unfortunately, it ‘s pretty much impossible to repair your credit score without using credit – but good luck getting a loan. It just isn’t going to happen. Since your goal is to repair your credit score, a good place to start building credit is by opening a secured credit card. If you make your payments on time, there’s a chance you can get an unsecured card in a few months. You can also attempt to get a store credit card. But, be extremely careful with this strategy. The last thing you want to do is rack up more debt. Open it, use it sparingly to build your credit, and pay it off every single month. Use it like cash. If you don’t have the money to pay for it, don’t put it on the card. Once you have mastered the art of using a credit card the proper way, then they can become beneficial, such as helping pay for your vacations by using some of the best travel rewards credit cards!

Step 7) Wait

Now that you’ve got your ship straightened out, all you can do is wait. It takes time for your credit score to heal. As a general rule, major negative marks against your credit take seven years to fall of your credit report. But, that doesn’t mean your credit score can’t improve in the short-term. Just keep doing the right things, and you’ll eventually get back into good shape.

See also: 4 Simple Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

Need Help to Fixing Your Credit Score?

If you don’t want to do the work yourself, you can certainly hire somebody to do it for you. The trick is to find a company you trust and afford. While I haven’t actually used their services, I’ve spoken with the people at CreditRepair.com and Lexington Law. To me, they really seem like they want to help people and that their heart is in the right place. We even have a special phone number for Club Thrifty readers below.

If you’re interested in receiving a free credit summary and consultation, here’s their info:

CreditRepair.com or Lexington Law

Phone: (844) 346-3281

Hours of Operation:

Monday – Friday: 8 a.m. – Midnight ET

Saturday: 9 a.m. – 11 p.m. ET

Sunday: 9 a.m. – 10 p.m. ET

Please note that we are an affiliate of CreditRepair.com and Lexington Law and may receive a small finder’s fee if you choose to do business with these companies after using our links or dialing our special toll-free number. So, if you’re going to use a credit repair company, we would appreciate your support by using our affiliate links.

Good luck, and keep coming back to Club Thrifty to help keep your finances on track all year long!