12/17/2009 12:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Cost of One Recent Late Payment

A recently divorced friend of mine, and now single mother of three, has been very excited to close on a new home. With a spotless payment history, a good income and a sizeable down payment, her dream was nearing reality. But when the bank went to re-pull her credit just before the closing, her middle credit score had dropped down to 675. With that number, she could no longer qualify for the same low interest rate. And to make matters even worse, she would have to pay an additional $7,000 at the closing table!

My friend's score had dropped because of one recent late payment on a department store credit card.

Because of her good credit history, she and I were able to work with her credit card company to resolve the issue. They agreed to remove the one late payment from her credit reports, which soared her score back to 738, and allowed her to close with the originally quoted rate.

With the holidays being the busiest time of the year, many of our ordinary rituals and responsibilities get lost in the process. And this sometimes includes getting our bills paid on time. Even Santa misses a few things on his list the first time around, so be sure to check your list at least twice. And don't forget the bills!