Q: I have made some bad credit mistakes, due to my stupidity and the fact that I am not educated in financial matters.

I am looking to buy my first home. I have a credit score that isn’t so pretty. I have some negative information on my credit report. I want to know how to increase my credit status, fix my credit report and raise my credit score to the point where I can purchase my first home.

Thanks for your website and for your time.

A: Mortgage lenders want every borrower to have a perfect credit report and very high credit score. Unfortunately, about a quarter of Americans these days have poor credit histories and a credit score of 550 or below, which isn’t going to help you get qualified for financing.

If your credit score is poor, you should pull a free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus at AnnualCreditReport.com. While the reports are free (you should get a copy of from each of the three credit reporting bureaus and can obtain each of them free once a year), take the opportunity to buy a copy of your credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, which will cost you about $9.

Look for errors or omissions on your credit report. While you admit you’ve made some stupid mistakes, you should also check for errors or information that has been incorrectly added to your report and could be dragging down your score.

Next, you should pay all of your bills on time and in full (if possible) each month. If it isn’t possible to pay all of your bills in full, you should at least make the minimum payment required each month. Over time, perhaps a year or two, making on-time payments will increase your credit score and help to clean up your credit history.

During this time, be sure to use your credit card wisely (or open up a credit card if you don’t have one) and pay off the bill at the end of the month. Getting a credit card means you will increase the total amount of available credit that has been assigned to you. Paying off the bill each month helps lower your “use ratio,” or how much of your available credit you’re using each month.

There are more tips about fixing your credit history and raising your credit score at my website, http://www.ThinkGlink.com. You might also want to check out the Equifax Personal Finance Blog. While I write the Real Estate blog for the site, the Equifax folks write about credit from their vantage point, and they also spend time on the site answering questions from site visitors.

By the time your credit score reaches 660, you’ll be able to successfully apply for a mortgage. In the meantime, you should start to save up for the down payment, closing costs, and cash reserves that lenders now require.

The more money you have saved for a down payment, the easier time you’ll have trying to buy a home. These days, lenders will make it more expensive for those borrowers trying to put a low down payment on a home and they will also make it harder to obtain a loan.