Salome Buitureria works hard. She’s an insulation worker at an oil refinery near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She works the night shift.
She spends her nights installing and repairing insulation on pipes, ductwork and industrial equipment. It’s not what you’d call a cush job. It’s hot, hard, dirty work. Her husband has the same job.
They dream of buying a house. It’s their biggest goal in life, to have a place of their own, where their children could call home. Unfortunately, a big obstacle has been blocking their path.
Both of them have struggled with bad credit. After they both got laid off from jobs in Texas a couple of years ago, their credit card bills spiraled out of control and their credit was ruined. But now they’re rebuilding it, raising their credit scores month by month.
“We were [each] in the 500s,” Salome says, “and now we’re almost to the 700s.”
They’re getting closer and closer to that house. They can feel it.
How are they doing it? By using a free tool called Credit Sesame to monitor their credit.
Personalized Tips to Manage Her Credit Better
Salome and her husband, Alfredo, a U.S. Marine veteran, know what it’s like to struggle financially. They know what it’s like to get aggressive phone calls from collection agencies.
“After we both got laid off, we couldn’t find work,” says Salome, 40. “All of our credit card payments just started backing up, backing up, until we couldn’t pay them anymore.”
Two things happened to turn their lives around. For one, they moved to Louisiana and got new jobs. The other turning point came when Salome discovered Credit Sesame, a website that helps her better manage her credit.
At the time, she had a credit score of 524, which is considered very poor. It’s virtually impossible to get a decent mortgage rate or even a car loan with that kind of credit.
Credit Sesame showed her how to fix that. It showed her why she had the score she did, and gave her personalized tips to steer her in the right direction.
“I’ve been using it a lot,” she says. “My husband, as well.”
A Real Plan to Fix Her Credit
If you want to keep a closer eye on your credit, it’s easy to get your credit score and free “credit report card” from Credit Sesame. It breaks down exactly what’s on your credit report in layman’s terms, how it affects your score and how you can address it.
For Salome, it showed her an error in her credit report. One out of five credit reports have an error, according to a study by the Federal Trade Commission.
Credit Sesame also helped her dispute an unpaid medical bill that was on her record, hurting her credit. “It has a little link where you can dispute the charge,” she says.
One of her daughters had gotten badly ill in Texas years ago. The then 5-year-old daughter had been on Medicaid when she was treated. But the family discovered they’d gotten the full bill anyway.
“They were saying she didn’t have Medicaid,” Salome said. “We called Medicaid in Texas. They were able to verify that she did have Medicaid and they would take that off my credit [record].”
And Credit Sesame showed all her debts — who she owed money to, and how much she owed.
One of the toughest parts about paying down debt and fixing your credit score is knowing where to begin. To create a rebuilding plan, you have to first know what you’re dealing with. Salome was able to form a plan to pay down her debts.
“Now that we work at the refinery, I make payments every Friday,” she said. “I’ve been paying them off little by little. They’re less than half of what they were before.”
Finally, Credit Sesame recommended a credit card she could qualify for, that would help her rebuild her credit. Her husband got one, too — it’s a Capital One Quicksilver rewards card that gives the couple 1.5% cash back on every purchase.
“I’ve had mine since last year,” she said. “We just use it for gas and small things, and pay it off every month.”
A Place of Their Own
Over about two years, Salome has seen the results for herself. Her credit score used to be 524. Her husband’s score was similar.
“Now he’s at 701,” she says. “I’m at 690-something.”
They’re not alone — 60% of Credit Sesame members see an increase in their credit score; 50% see at least a 10-point increase, and 20% see at least a 50-point increase after 180 days.
With Credit Sesame, the Buiturerias get a monthly credit score update, plus credit-monitoring alerts. “It just alerts me when there are changes,” Salome explains.
Soon they’ll start house-hunting around the Baton Rouge area. They currently live in a rental in the little town of Sorrento, Louisiana, between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
Why buy? Why not rent?
“We want a place where the kids can come home,” she says, “where they don’t have to worry, a year or two down the road, ‘Oh, Mom’s got a new house.’”
Between them, they have nine children. They’ve both been previously married. “He’s got five and I have four,” Salome says.
The oldest is 22. The youngest is 10. The oldest two sons are in the Marines now. Only two of the kids live with the Buiturerias.
“I actually have my oldest daughter on Credit Sesame as well,” Salome says. “Because she doesn’t have any credit whatsoever, it’s helping her build her credit.”
Mike Brassfield (email@example.com) is a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder.
Credit Sesame does not guarantee any of these results, and some may even see a decrease in their credit score. Any score improvement is the result of many factors, including paying bills on time, keeping credit balances low, avoiding unnecessary inquiries, appropriate financial planning and developing better credit habits.
This was originally published on The Penny Hoarder, which helps millions of readers worldwide earn and save money by sharing unique job opportunities, personal stories, freebies and more. The Inc. 5000 ranked The Penny Hoarder as the fastest-growing private media company in the U.S. in 2017.