There are lots of obvious money mistakes; spending more than you make, not paying off credit cards, getting a degree that won’t pay for itself, not having an emergency fund, and not budgeting among them. You have a budget and emergency fund, right? While these are rather obvious, I’m going to talk about five money mistakes to avoid. You might not even see them as mistakes. Here’s why I do:
MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID: #1 – NOT CONTRIBUTING TO RETIREMENT WHILE PAYING OFF DEBT
The first big money mistake to avoid is one that I made. I wish I HADN’T listened to Uncle Dave on this one; it is the idea that you shouldn’t save for retirement while paying down debt. I waited until the last year I worked full-time to take the advice and stop retirement contributions. I wanted to pay down our debt so I would be able to stay home with our kids. It seemed like a logical thing to do at the time, but now I seriously regret that decision. Until that point, I had contributed at least the amount of the employer match since I was 21.
I walked away from free money. Let me repeat that. I walked away from free money! Why would I do that? Why does anyone think it’s a good idea not to contribute toward retirement? Thanks to compounding the earlier you start saving the less you have to contribute. The future income you rob yourself of far outweighs any debt payoff traction you could get. And let’s face it, three to five percent of your pre-tax income probably isn’t going to be that big of a hit to your paycheck. I’m just glad I didn’t stop contributions sooner than I did.
I still have some retirement savings, but after cashing out early (which is another no-no, but the past is the past) what is left sets in a Roth IRA I currently do not make regular contributions. You best believe I am kicking myself for stopping my contributions when I had a regular income and employer match.
#2 – NOT ADDING SINKING FUNDS TO YOUR BUDGET
Even if you’re paying off debt or on a tight budget there are unavoidable expenses you need to build into your budget. It is much easier saving a smaller chunk out of your monthly budget than dipping into your emergency fund or using a credit card (when you can’t pay the balance in full) for an expense you expected. I have a big love for sinking funds.
If you have a car you need a maintenance fund. If you pay insurance premiums quarterly or yearly that needs to be accounted for in the budget. If you plan to go on vacation next summer why not set money aside for it now rather than put it all on the credit card and figure out how to pay for it when you get back? It just makes sense! Plan ahead and have the money set aside before the expense happens. It just makes life so much easier!
MONEY MISTAKES TO AVOID: #3 – BUYING VEHICLES NEW
This money mistake to avoid may seem like a deserved luxury. You can afford the payments, want reliability, so you go ahead and buy a vehicle new. It feels like such a treat and there is probably even an “I made it” moment or two when you show it off to friends and family the first time. I get it; cars are a status symbol in our society.
But I also get the fact that cars are a big expense and an asset that depreciates over time. Rather quickly too. We borrowed money on all the cars we’ve driven as adults, but we paid them off early. We also still own them for years after payoff. Driving used vehicles and not having a car payment saves us hundreds of dollars a month. I’d rather have that money in the bank or put to better use toward my family’s financial goals than tied up in a vehicle parked in the driveway.
In order to maintain our vehicles so they last longer we do keep an auto maintenance fund in which we contribute to monthly. Even then, the cost is a fraction of the average car payment of $554 for a new vehicle according to Credit Karma. If I’m spending $554 a month on something it’d better be a good investment! Currently, the ONLY monthly expense we have that is greater than that is our mortgage. If we had two new cars the payments would be more than it costs to keep a roof over our heads. That makes little sense to me.
#4 – IGNORING YOUR CREDIT SCORE
We don’t like to keep a credit card balance. At this point, we do not travel hack (although I’m not ruling this out as a possibility in the future) and just avoid using the card for the most part. This is a money mistake to avoid because even if you plan to live debt-free you still need to monitor your credit. You can do this free annually.
With identity theft so prevalent I don’t understand how people manage to ignore this one. Set a calendar reminder on your phone to check your credit annually. Don’t just worry about it when you’re getting ready to borrow money. More companies report information to credit bureaus than you realize; make sure it’s correct and that incorrect information isn’t damaging your credit. Your landlord and even your utility company report your payment history to the credit bureaus.
Bad credit doesn’t just affect your ability to borrow money; it can also affect your ability to get certain jobs. Federal law allows employers to check potential employee’s credit reports to help determine the likelihood of potential risks such as fraud or theft (with consent). Unless you’re in one of the eleven states that don’t allow this it is a possibility that a potential employer will ask for consent to run your credit history.
#5 – LISTENING TO ONLY ONE EXPERT’S ADVICE
I have been guilty of this one. You may have been guilty of it at one point too. You pick a favorite “expert” or “guru” in the personal finance rule and after a while find yourself believing everything they say. Until… you don’t. Real-life experiences, regrets, and my own intuition have caused me to take pause at some advice offered by experts whose advice I genuinely trust. Being involved more online and in the debt-free community on social media has further opened my eyes.
I love taking the opportunity to broaden my exposure and delve deeper into the topics and discussions and allowing myself the freedom to disagree, change my mind, or consider things from a different perspective. This doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy listening to the same podcasts on occasion and take away nuggets of truth or inspiration.
I’ve simply come to acknowledge that I don’t have to agree one hundred percent with anyone. If I don’t understand the argument or the principle I have to take it upon myself to learn more. It is my responsibility to educate myself and to put the work in myself, not to blindly follow whatever I read. And it’s your responsibility to do the same.
WHAT MONEY MISTAKES HAVE YOU MADE WITHOUT REALIZING?
If you’ve handled your own finances for more than ten minutes I’m sure you have made at least one. Have you made any of these five money mistakes I’ve outlined? If so, do you regret it or do you feel that it was the correct decision for you? There’s a reason they say personal finance is personal after all! I’d love to hear what you think about what I consider money mistakes to avoid.
I took a money management course in high school that supposedly taught me more about personal finance and budgeting than the average adult at the time knew. It did give me a good foundation to build on, but most of my knowledge has come from life experience. I found out I didn’t know a lot and decided to learn how to budget and live a frugal life. And I’m still learning! I don’t think we should ever stop learning – and not just in the personal finance field. I want to be a lifelong learner about all areas of my life so I can live the best one possible! This is probably true for most of us.
DON’T FORGET ABOUT NO-SPEND FEBRUARY!
Also, No-Spend February continues (with a $105 appliance repair bill thrown into the mix)! How are you doing? Share your progress on social media with #NoSpendFebruary and I’ll follow along and share in my stories! I give daily updates on my Instagram Stories, so be sure to check those out! Also, be on the lookout for a No-Spend themed YouTube video going live Thursday morning. Did you catch the minimalism mini-series?
I should also be back with a new post on Friday. Until next time, stay frugal my friends! And have a great no-spend week!