If your credit score isn't as high as you'd like, you're not alone. According to Experian, more than 50% of consumers in the US have a credit score that's considered Poor (550-649) or Very Poor (549 & below). Your credit score impacts everything from buying a car to the apartment you rent to whether or not you can get a decent cell phone plan. A poor credit score can keep you from reaching your financial goals and living the life you want. The good news is that your credit score can change; it's just a matter of understanding it.

Since 2010, Credit Sesame has helped millions of consumers manage their credit score and continues to provide people with education and tools needed to take control over their finances. If you have a low credit score and are not sure how to improve it, start by identifying which of these 5 common credit mistakes you might not know you're making.

1. You don't check your credit score

Checking your credit is free of charge, and yet many of us rarely do it. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as 20% of consumers have errors on one of their credit reports, many of which go unnoticed. Errors, like a wrong address might seem small, but the effects can wreak havoc on your score. Consumers who check their credit reports regularly are able to spot errors and dispute them more quickly, avoiding the effects of potential low marks. Credit Sesame makes it easy to keep tabs on your credit score without negatively impacting your score.

2. You miss credit card payments

Your payment history may be the most important factor affecting your credit score. Paying your balance in full each month can help maintain a strong score, but if you miss payments, this can cause your score to suffer. One common reason people miss payments is that their due dates don't align with pay cycles. Consider calling your bank to change your due date , and signing up for automatic payments. If you can't pay the balance each month, try to pay the minimum to ensure payments are still being made.

3. You don't diversify your credit

Almost 40% of Americans have only a single line of credit but having multiple lines of credit in good standing shows agencies that you can manage multiple accounts effectively. This doesn't mean you should take out a car loan simply to have more lines of credit. Instead, you could replace your debit card with a credit card as your go-to method of payment for everyday expenses. Just be sure to pay off your monthly balance to avoid interest payments. Credit Sesame is a great resource and gives its users personalized tips and lets them know about relevant financial opportunities.

4. You max out your cards

Credit utilization measures the amount of available credit you have and how close you are to reaching your limit. For example, if you have a limit of $8,000 and charge $6,000, your utilization is 75%--in other words, too high. People with the best credit scores make sure to keep their utilization below 10% of their available credit, and never more than 40%. If you can't reduce your spending to lower your utilization, see if you can request a credit limit increase.

5. You close your old accounts

Having a longer credit history suggests to lenders that you're more likely to be a trustworthy borrower. Americans with 11+ years of credit history have on average a 100-point lead in their credit scores. Nearly half of Americans could have a higher credit score if they simply left unused accounts open, because this could diversify credit and lower overall utilization.

Whether you want to keep tabs on your credit, improve your score, or get approved for a loan with a better interest rate, Credit Sesame makes it easy. Start by getting your free credit check at Credit Sesame today , and take the first step towards financial freedom.

Update: The folks at credit sesame are extending a special offer to our readers. Follow this link for a free credit consultation including your free credit report summary and score!

PayPath
Follow Us on

Home garden and porch

As anyone who has ever sold a house will tell you, you must prioritize curb appeal. Before a potential buyer even considers looking inside your house, they notice the outside first. Does it attract the right kind of attention? Does it take away from the feel you're going for? If you plan to sell sometime soon, you must think about these things. Here are some landscaping options to increase your home's curb appeal, so you can get the best price on your home.

Extensive Plants and Greenery

A barren front yard won't get you the price you want on your home. So, invest in at least a little bit of greenery to keep the surrounding area from looking too dead. Shrubs and bushes tie the house to the lawn that precedes it, and flower beds bring a pop of color to an otherwise drab structure. You can also strategically plant some trees to improve the overall feel of your home's exterior.

Lawn Care

As we mentioned, your lawn is one of the most prominent features of your home's exterior. A patchy, dried-up lawn will quickly drive your home's price way down. Some of the best landscaping options for your home's curb appeal involve improving your lawn for the next inhabitant. Overall fertilization, ground aeration, underbrush removal, proper mowing—all of these lawn care tasks contribute to a greener and more lively area that invites people to see your house, rather than stay away from it.

Paved Pathways

There's nothing like a broken and disheveled pathway to make someone think twice about buying a property. Just as you want the entryway in your house to be welcoming, so too should the pathway leading up to the house be inviting. The pathway from the street to your front door provides plenty of real estate to get creative with. You don't have to settle for a boring concrete pathway. Consider something more eye catching, like a cobblestone path or intermittent brick patterns, as a way to better welcome potential buyers.

Usable Outdoor Furniture

Landscaping doesn't just involve the ground you walk on; also included are the items you use as extras to the overall look. Outdoor furniture is one such extra that you don't necessarily need but can look quite attractive if done correctly. Staging is important with outdoor furniture. Old, broken-down pieces will only look like more work to the potential buyer. A few comfortable chairs, a bench, or a table with an umbrella really go a long way to improving your outdoor aesthetics.

A good tip for deciding on curb appeal items is to decide what you personally would want to see as a part of a welcoming home's exterior. You don't need to go overboard, but a little bit of forethought could net you quite a lot of extra cash in the sale.

Unfortunately, giving back can sometimes go haywire. If you're ready to make a donation, first consider common mistakes made when giving back.

Many people strive to support their community by donating their time or their money. When you find a meaningful cause, you might be quick to cut a donation check. Though it's admirable to be quick to act charitably, you should be wary of several common mistakes made when giving to charity. Being mindful of these mistakes and learning tips for making informed charitable choices can help you make the most out of your generous check.

Acting Quickly Out of Emotion

Mission statements are meant to be compelling. If you're an emotionally driven individual, it's natural to pull out your wallet at the sight of a sad puppy on TV or when informed about food insecurity over the phone. Unfortunately, not all charities are as effective or official as they may seem.

Take your passion for helping others one step further by making sure your chosen charity is legit. Speaking with a representative, reviewing their website and social media accounts, and looking at testaments online can give you a better idea of whether the organization is worth your donation.

Forgetting to Keep Record of the Donation

Don't forget that you can reap some financial perks from giving back! With the proper documentation of your donation, you can acquire a better tax deductible.

If you donate more than $12,400 as a single filer or $24,800 as one of two joint filers, you're eligible to deduct that amount from your taxes. So, when a charity asks if you'd like a receipt of donation, always answer yes.

Donating Unusable Materials

Most charities can utilize a monetary donation—it's the physical donations that usually cause some issues. Providing a local nonprofit with irrelevant materials or gifting them with unusable products are surprisingly common mistakes made when giving to charity.

Always check your intended charity's website for a list of things they do and do not accept. The majority of places will provide a guideline to donating or offer contact information to clarify any questions.

Strictly Giving at Year's End

As more and more people get into the holiday spirit at the end of the year, nonprofit organizations see an influx of donations. While it's great to spread holiday cheer via a monetary donation, it's important to keep that spirit going year-round.

With regular donations, charities can more effectively allocate their annual budget. Setting up an automatic monthly donation with the charity of your choosing can maximize your impact. You can account for a monthly donation by foregoing a costly coffee every once in a while.

Knowing how much you should spend on home maintenance each year is hard to figure out and may be preventing you from buying your first home. The types of costs you'll incur depend on the house you buy and its location. The one certainty is that you should start saving now. Read on to figure out how much to start setting aside based on the home you own.

The Age of Your House

Consider several factors when budgeting for home repairs. If you've purchased a new home, your house likely won't require as much maintenance for a few years. Homes built 20 or more years ago are likely to require more maintenance, including replacing and keeping your windows clean. Further, depending on your home's location, weather can cause additional strain over time, so you may need to budget for more repairs.

The One-Percent Rule

An easy way to budget for home repairs is to follow the one-percent rule. Set aside one percent of your home's purchase price each year to cover maintenance costs. For instance, if you paid $200,000 for your home, you would set aside $2,000 each year. This plan is not foolproof. If you bought your home for a good deal during a buyer's market, your home could require more repairs than you've budgeted for.

The Square-Foot Rule

Easy to calculate, you can also budget for home maintenance by saving one dollar for every square foot of your home. This pricing method is more consistent than pricing it by how much you paid because the rate relies on the objective size of your home. Unfortunately, it does not consider inflation for the area where you live, so make sure you also budget for increased taxes and labor costs if you live in or near a city.

The Mix and Match Method

Since there is no infallible rule for how much you should spend on home maintenance, you can combine both methods to get an idea for a budget. Average your results from the square-foot rule and the one-percent rule to arrive at a budget that works for you. You should also increase your savings by 10 percent for each risk factor that affects your home, such as weather and age.

Holding on to savings is easier in theory than practice. Once you know how much you should spend on home maintenance, you'll know what to aim for and be more prepared for an emergency. If you are having trouble securing funds for home repairs, consider taking out a home equity loan, borrowing money from friends or family, or applying for funds through a home repair program through your local government for low-income individuals.