12/30/2011 04:37 pm ET

It's the Start of Your Journey Toward Better Credit

I love the new year because I love new beginnings: The slate is clean, the path is untouched, the opportunities seem endless! The new year is the start of a year long journey and you're at the part of the trip where you decide where you want to go, how you'll get there, and what you'll take with you.

A little planning before any trip will ensure that you arrive at your destination as quickly as possible. If part of your journey this year includes traveling toward better credit, take a moment now to decide how to make it a successful trip for you.

Where do you want to go? Deciding to achieve "better credit" is vague. You need to know exactly what your credit score is right now and what you want it to be. Make sure your goal is achievable this year. If your goal seems too daunting, break it up into smaller quarterly goals. It also helps to remember why you're doing it -- perhaps so you can qualify for a mortgage or renegotiate a loan at a lower rate or be able to get your spending under control or allow you to save for the future.

How will you get there? There are a number of paths you can take on your journey toward better credit. Some steps will be easier to do on your own -- like cutting up your credit cards, setting up a budget, subscribing to to monitor your credit, and working with a credit consultant. Some of the steps will be harder to do -- like cutting back on impulse spending or admitting to a friend or relative that you'd like them to hold you accountable as you manage your debt.

The longer your journey from your current score to your preferred score, the harder and more drastic the route will be. (But as you already know, anything worth doing is worth the hard work!)

What will you take with you? This is probably most overlooked part of "better credit trip planning." When you decide what to take with you on your trip this year, you need to consider two things:
  • What habits do you want to adopt or preserve to help you achieve better credit? (Here are my suggestions: Check your credit score regularly; dispute errors on your credit report; set a budget and stick to it).
  • What habits do you want to leave behind? (Here are my suggestions: Stop paying your bills late; avoid impulse buying; don't use your credit cards to make certain purchases).

You're just about ready to start your journey toward better credit ... But here is one last piece of trip-planning encouragement I'd like to share: It's so easy to be weighed down by the burden of anxiety and (even guilt) when reflecting on how you got to where you are today. Maybe it was bad habits or maybe it was events beyond your control that led to a bad credit score. Your past doesn't have to define your future! Don't let those burdens weigh you down! You're at the beginning of a journey toward better credit and your journey will be far more successful when you leave behind the unnecessary baggage.

The year is still fresh and clean and ready for you to make your mark! Take those first few exciting steps toward better credit in 2012. I'll be with you in the journey.

Feel free to email me your credit goals for 2012