Beating the low credit score blues

You know that having a good credit score is important, but what do you do if your numbers aren't where you'd like them to be? Before you start worrying that your sub-par credit score will keep you from buying a car or spending money ever again, take a step back and brush up on these credit score facts. You may be pleasantly surprised to hear that a bad credit score today doesn't have to spell financial ruin tomorrow.

In fact, if you have a poor credit score, you're in pretty good company. More than half of Americans – 56 percent – have a subprime credit score, defined as being below 640. This figure may seem startling, but take heart – if they can all own vehicles, you can too.

The key to getting your credit score back on track is patience. Unfortunately, there's no trick or magic bullet that will give your rating a huge boost quickly, but if you maintain good spending and saving habits and are fastidious with your cash, you'll notice improvement over time. Simply paying your bills on time can't be overlooked. It seems small, but it's one of the things that has the most consistent impact on your credit score – and 25 percent of adults don't pay their bills when they should.

Every strategy needs a plan of action, and when it comes to your credit score, the backbone of your efforts will be an effective budget. Surprisingly, 60 percent of Americans don't actively track their finances. It may seem stressful to constantly watch the numbers in your bank account drop as you spend, but knowing exactly where your money goes is crucial for creating a plan that is realistic and effective.

You can help offset your low credit score by making a larger down payment. If you put down between 15 and 20 percent of the cost up front, it can significantly reduce your monthly payments.

A low credit score doesn't have to keep you from buying a car.A low credit score doesn't have to keep you from buying a car.