Be punished for missed payments: Not all late payments are created equally. If you are fewer than 30 days late, your missed payment will likely not be reported to the bureau (although you still will be subject to late fees and potential risk-based re-pricing, which can be very expensive). Once you are 30 days late, you will be reported to the credit bureau. The longer you go without paying, the bigger the impact on your score, ie: 60 days late is worse than 30 days late. A single missed payment (of 30 days or more) can still have a big impact on your score. It can take anywhere from 60 to 110 points off your score.
Consolidation means that your various debts, whether they are credit card bills or loan payments, are rolled into one monthly payment. If you have multiple credit card accounts or loans, consolidation may be a way to simplify or lower payments.  But, a debt consolidation loan does not erase your debt. You might also end up paying more by consolidating debt into another type of loan.
If your average monthly income for the six-month period leading up to your bankruptcy filing is less than the median income for the same-size household in your state, you automatically qualify. If your income is above the median, you must pass an additional means test that compares your income to specific monthly expenses to prove you have little to no disposable income.
You need to show you can handle credit wisely, so having occasional balances on your credit cards can be a good thing. But in general, when you use your credit cards, try to pay them off as soon as you can (you don't have to wait for the statement in the mail but can pay online anytime). In fact, you can make your record look better than it is by making your payments just before your statement is sent, rather than waiting until you receive it. Most credit card companies report your balance at the same time that they mail your bill. If, for example, your statement goes out on the 15th of the month, pay your bill early (let’s say by the 13th) so the money will arrive prior to the statement being sent out. That way your outstanding credit balance reported to the credit bureaus will be lower.

When the investigation is complete, the credit reporting company must give you the results in writing, too, and a free copy of your report if the dispute results in a change. If an item is changed or deleted, the credit reporting company cannot put the disputed information back in your file unless the information provider verifies that it’s accurate and complete. The credit reporting company also must send you written notice that includes the name, address, and phone number of the information provider. If you ask, the credit reporting company must send notices of any correction to anyone who got your report in the past six months. You also can ask that a corrected copy of your report be sent to anyone who got a copy during the past two years for employment purposes.
Next, estimate your monthly spending habits for other expenses such as gas, groceries and entertainment. Create a limit, based on your income, of what you can spend in each of the different categories of expenses. For example, if you tend to spend $400 a month on groceries, try to stick to $300 a month on groceries by making changes like buying generic brands, using coupons, and resisting impulse purchases.
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