The good news is if you consider these lessons from the hit
show, based on George R. R. Martin's novel series "A Song of Ice
and Fire," you can conquer and rule the realm of credit.
A Lannister always pays his debts.
From a morality standpoint,
we may not be fans of this ruthless royal house that beheads
innocents and starts wars, but when applied to one's finances, this
is one piece of advice we can get behind.
Taking your debt seriously is vital if you want to stay in good
credit standing and increase your credit score, and not just if
you're shopping for a great home mortgage rate. "Some people think
that if they're not in the market for buying a home, they don't
have to worry about credit scores," says A.J. Smith, managing
editor of SmartAsset, a website that provides personal finance
tools, calculators and information. However, she points out, the
ability to pay your bills on time can impact everything from
qualifying for the best auto loan interest rates, to scoring an
apartment, to getting a new job.
In fact, according to a 2012
by the Society for Human Resource Management, 47 percent of
employers conducted credit checks on potential hires.
Lesson 2: Winter is coming.
This motto of House Stark means that we must be prepared for darker
times that loom ahead. Modern day translation? Building an
emergency fund now can save you from getting into debt later.
While that may seem like a challenge if you're barely getting
by, taking a close look at your expenses and spending might
surprise you, says April Lewis-Parks, director of education and
certified credit counselor for Consolidated Credit Counseling
"Look at your finances to make sure you're not spending more
money than you need to," she says. For example, are you getting hit
with fees and charges for services you're not using? "People don't
think of these collectively, but it all adds up," she explains. Go
over expenses with a fine-toothed comb, and make some hard
decisions about where you can cut back; that's where you'll find
the extra money to start your emergency fund.
Starting the saving habit is the best thing you can do, adds
Smith. "People might want to wait until they make more money, but
don't. Put even $20 a month away and increase it when you get a
raise, a birthday gift or tax refund," she says. Strive to reach
$1,000 for your "winter" fund, and keep growing it so you don't
have to pull out the plastic for unexpected expenses.
Lesson 3: Be your own Master of Coin.
Lucky for you, you don't have to manage the finances of the
Seven Kingdoms and deal with the corruption that comes with the
job, but finding the right balance between mastering your debt and
enjoying life can be a challenge nonetheless.
"We can't live our lives just paying off debt," says Ornella
Grosz, author of "Moneylicious: A Financial Clue for Generation Y."
Once you reach the mini goals you've set for yourself (such as that
$1,000 for your emergency account), start a splurge fund. "Reward
yourself. It can actually be good for growth and development to
take a little vacation to relax and calm down," she says.
That doesn't mean you should max out your credit cards to go on
a dream vacation or throw a lavish party beyond what you can
afford, says Lewis-Parks. "Shop around and start planning ahead if
you have an event coming up. That way you know what your budget is,
you can save, and you can negotiate with vendors for the best
Lesson 4: Stick 'em with the pointy end.
Using credit without understanding the fine print is like going
into battle without knowing how to use a sword. (Good thing Arya
had Jon Snow to tell her how it's done!)
"With credit cards, the most important thing is to have a clear
what an APR is
," says Grosz. "Many people don't realize how quickly interest
compounds, and how it will impact you in the long run."
You also don't want to fall victim to a sneak attack like the
guests at "the red wedding," so be sure to look for signs that an
offer is too good to be true. "It's important to ask questions when
opening up a line of credit," says Lewis-Parks. Things like: Is
there a late fee penalty? Can I make payments for free over the
phone or online?
Lesson 5: Join the watch.
Taking the black and becoming a member of the Night's Watch is for
life on "Game of Thrones." Likewise, watching your credit and
banking accounts should become a lifetime commitment, especially if
you've opted for paperless statements. "Automatic deposits can be
great tools to automate savings strategy, and auto bill pay can
help you make sure you don't have a late payment fee," says Smith.
"But that doesn't mean you shouldn't look closely at your
statements." Not only can keeping tabs on your accounts help
identify times when you're overspending, it can also help you spot
fraudulent activity or banking errors.
Now that you're armed with these Westeros-inspired credit
strategies, you can restore financial peace of mind to your own
house, and enjoy a long and prosperous reign.
What reality TV teaches us about credit and