I've had a lot on my plate in recent years, so I had not done a whole lot to deal with credit reports. Early last year I started the process of working to improve my score. Here's the basic rundown of my experience so far.
1--SELF LENDER WORKS. This year there have been lots of people asking about this and some even claiming it's a waste of time. I opened a SL account last February. My FICO score was 555. I do not have very many accounts on my credit reports, so YMMV, but from February to now, my TU score has gone up 99 points. No kidding!! There were three major changes to my reports this year. First, I got a fraudulently reported very large negative collection account removed, as it was not legitimate and should never have been reported to start with. Second, I got the SL account as mentioned above. Third, and this just showed up literally today, I was just added as an AU for my wife's Discover account. The real star has been the Self Lender account. Now, again, YMMV, if you already have positive installment credit showing it will not help you as much, or maybe not at all. But the only installment credit I had prior to this on my reports was a couple of closed accounts.
2--SLOW AND STEADY....I resisted the urge to apply for all sorts of credit. As my score has been going up, I've been getting "pre-approved" offers from everyone, from bad-credit credit card companies to car dealers, wanting me to get more debt. I tossed all of them in the shredder. This year coming up, I'll probably take on a vehicle loan, but we'll see how the current vehicle situation goes. Before long I will apply for a credit card just to have additional revolving credit but I want to keep it small and simple for now.
3--KEEP YOUR GAINS....Once you start accumulating positive payment history, KEEP paying on time. Don't slack off and have to start all over. In my case, it's been simple because the only payments I've had to make are my SL payments since I have no other open accounts anywhere. But that goes hand in hand with #2 above....especially with Christmas shopping season in full force, it's too easy to spend outside our means. Keep your gains--pay cash where you can. If you don't have enough $$ for something, consider waiting until you do to buy it. I'm not charging a single thing for Christmas shopping. That's why I'm waiting until after the holiday to start applying for a card. And I plan on just getting one, two at the most. No sense in having a dozen different cards.
4--NO STRESS!! REALLY!! I'm a really happy camper about now....don't have a huge salary but even without charging things we're going to have plenty of gifts for Christmas. So I'm about stress free right now. Score is going up, bills are going down, and things are looking good!!
5--ULTIMATE GOAL....I want mid-700s across my three reports. Since two are basically almost identical and the third has just one account different than the others, this should work out well. Within the next 2 years, we plan on building our dream home. When that happens, I will be ready with a great score and very low debt.
Don't lose sight of your goals!! It sucks when your score is in the basement and you're 200+ points from where you want to be. But those little steps, increases by 4 or 7 points here and there, they really do add up!
6--KEEP READING....these forums are filled with a TON of great info. I cannot thank the posters here enough for sharing their experiences and knowledge! LEARN. READ. DONT STOP. Knowledge really is power!
Congratulations on your journey! I love your goal to "keep reading". You are absolutely right about the vast amount of knowledge on the forums!