The credit tips everyone should know before 40

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Tips for Improving Your Credit Score

Turning 40 is an exciting milestone. It means crossing the threshold of middle age and hopefully reaching a point where you can take ownership of your choices. Though inching close to the big 5-0 may feel terrifying, there's something incredibly freeing about knowing how to deal with whatever life throws your way, especially when it comes to your credit. To that end, here are some skills to master.

1. The Meaning of 'Good Credit'

At this point in life, you should be familiar with the concept of a bad and good credit score. That's because knowing the latter, be it a FICO score or VantageScore, means knowing what challenges you'll face when it comes to borrowing money — and what type of rate you'll receive when you do. Many scores are available to lenders, so study up on the various models. (You can see where your credit scores stand for free on Credit.com.)

2. How to Dispute Errors on Credit Reports

You're an adult now, so you'll need to handle your credit reports like one. Fortunately, it isn't too hard: Go through every section of your credit reports with a fine-tooth comb and get in touch with the issuing credit bureau if something's amiss. Spot more than one issue? You'll have to file separate disputes for each item. And if you have a lot of errors or just don't want to DIY, you can hire a credit repair company.

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The credit tips everyone should know before 40

Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

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Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

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Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

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Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

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Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

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Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

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Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

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Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

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Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like GoFundMe.com, and see the cash pile up.

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Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

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Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

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Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

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Rentafriend.com

You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

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Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

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Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

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Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

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Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

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Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

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Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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3. How to Spot Identity Theft

Identity theft is rampant, so you need to know when to act. That means paying attention when your credit card is declined, monitoring your credit score for any unexplained drops and checking credit card statements regularly to catch any unfamiliar charges or increase in balances.

4. How to Avoid Overdraft or Bounced Check Fees

Gone are the days when your spending was limited to the actual amount of money in your account. Today, if you opt in your bank will let a transaction go through even if you don't have enough cash for that ATM withdrawal or debit card purchase. And then you'll face an overdraft fee — as much as $35 per overdraft. Some banks even charge $2 to $5 per day until the account regains a positive balance. And if your balance stays in the red, your account could be closed and sent to collections (and that will ding your credit scores too).

5. How to Manage Medical Debt

Growing older means more doctor visits for you and your kids — and medical bills as a result. But lest you think ignoring those bills won't hurt your credit, think again: Though doctors or hospitals don't usually report such debt to credit reporting agencies, they do turn over unpaid debts to debt collectors, who will report them. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, roughly half of all collection accounts on credit reports are due to medical debt.

6. How Your Spouse Affects Your Credit

Whether you just took the plunge or have been married for years, it pays to know how your spouse impacts your credit. Will his negative credit history come back to haunt yours? Are you automatically a co-signer on her accounts? Debunk the myths now to avoid some tough conversations later.

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The credit tips everyone should know before 40

1. Clear your browser history

Some retailers might sneakily increase prices based on your browsing patterns and demand - so make sure to always clear your history and cookies before shopping! 

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2. Use an alternate email address

When you log in to a retailer's site with a new email address, retailers will often welcome you as a new customer with exciting new promotions and discounts. 

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3. Note price changes throughout the week

Another pro tip: Prices and deals can fluctuate based on the day of the week. For instance, if you're purchasing a flight, monitor prices for around a week to see if they take a dip on any particular day before purchasing. 

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4. Let items linger in your cart

Here's a hack: Add items to your cart, but let them sit for 24 hours before purchasing. The retailer might attempt to lure you back with additional discounts.

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5. Check out multiple sites

Do some research! Don't settle for the first price you see - poke around on a search engine and find the best deal. 

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6. Bargain with customer service

Use customer service to your advantage. If you ask (politely!) about an expired coupon, you'll often find yourself pleasantly surprised by an extension or new code! 

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7. Don't purchase impulsively

Try this shopping hack - don't buy that shiny, new toy right away. Step away for a few hours, and if you find yourself itching to go back and click 'purchase', then you know you won't regret your investment!

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8. Avoid shipping fees

Take advantage of free shipping! If you are a few dollars below the free shipping price point, add a low-cost filler item you need anyway (like socks!) and make the math work out in your favor. 

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Want to see the other six essential credit tips you should learn by the big 4-0? Check out the full article on Credit.com.

More from Credit.com:
A Quick Guide to Paying Off Credit Card Debt
How Selling Your Home Can Impact Your Credit
How to Protect Your Kid's Identity

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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