When it comes to money, most of us probably think we are doing pretty well. I mean, we have a budget, we can afford the things we need and sometimes have extra money to spend when we want to. However, could you do better? I mean, in reality, can’t we all?
If you take a look at your spending, are you really being as smart as possible? It may seem like it at first glance, but if you really sit down and think about it, you may be actually making mistakes with your finances and not even realize it! This can mean missed opportunities to save or even overspending. Check out these money mistakes you may be making – and what you can do to make it right!
1. Not having a budget.
I know, I know, I probably sound like a broken record here. However, this is key to managing your money. A budget is not a bad thing. In fact, it it just the opposite. A budget puts financial control back in your life. Otherwise, your money just goes where it wants and you have no control over your finances.
I know it can seem scary to actually sit down and make a budget, but it really is not that bad. In fact, once you do it and start to follow one, you will realize how much better you feel about your money.
Read More: How to Create a Budget That Works
2. Not being involved in your finances (allowing your partner or spouse to take care of it all).
If you are in a relationship where you both contribute financially (married or otherwise), are you both involved in paying the bills? In most cases, it seems that just one person takes care of this. It could be the person who is considered your head of household. There are instances where it is the person who is better at handling money (and/or maybe enjoys it). It is not OK for just one person to be in charge of paying the bills and saving. You both need to be involved.
What you need to do is sit down together and start with your budget (see #1). Fill it out together so you both see how your money is to be spent. You can both contribute to how you will save, what you will budget for dining out or other items you want to spend your money on. You both have an equal voice. You both are in control of your money.
Once you have the budget, it can not stop there. You need to look at your investments, credit cards, life insurance – anything with any sort of financial tie. Make sure you both understand where this is held, be it a bank or insurance company. Make sure you both know how to access the account by knowing login and passwords.
Read More: How to Talk to Your Partner About Money
3. Not saving for retirement.
If you have a young family, your focus is more than likely on your children. You are concerned with making sure they have the the things they need, and rightfully so. You may also be only looking forward as far as saving for college for them. What about you though? How will you support yourself when the children are no longer living at home?
Too many parents focus more on college than retirement. Sure, we’d love to help our children financially with college, but if your children are intelligent, they may get scholarships. They can take out loans. They can save to invest in their own education. However, who is going to help give you money when you retire?
If you plan on relying upon social security to cover your expenses when you retire, you are going to be in for a shock. They will not give you enough money to live on. Period. It is up to you to take the steps now to ensure that you are looking ahead to take care of yourself and your spouse or partner for the future.
The simplest way to do this is to look to your employer. Do they have a 401(k) plan? Do they have a matching program? Start saving right now and look ahead towards covering yourself for those golden years.
Read More: How to Find Money to Save For Retirement
4. Using credit the wrong way.
I love to shop. I really do. However, I never use credit. If I don’t have cash then that means I don’t get to purchase it.
That being said, many people are wise when it comes to using credit cards. This is another of the many money mistakes. They use them and turn around and pay it off completely every single month. If you are one of these people, the good for you!
The problem is when you fall for the traps. The low introductory rate of 1% or the store offering a discount of 20% if you open a store charge. While you may say that you don’t do that and will pay it off, that is not the case for most. Most will allow the balance to carry as it is so tempting to have spent $400 and only have to hand over $15 that next month. I mean, you get to keep $385 in YOUR pocket – right? WRONG!
Take a look at this example:
You open a store card to save 20% off of your purchase that day and end up spending $400. You saved a bunch of money already and so it was smart!
The bill comes and you open it. You see that the interest rate is 18.9% and that the minimum payment is only $16. Rather than hand over the entire $400 out of your account, you think – “Heck! I’ll just send in that minimum and keep that $384 in my own pocket to spend on something else!”
If you continue to do this, it will take you nearly 3 years (34 months) to pay off this balance. THREE YEARS! Not only that, but you will accumulate more than $120 in interest making your $400 purchase end up costing more than $520!!!
Just pass on those credit card offers and stick with cash or your debit card and you won’t fall into these even money sucking traps!
5. Listening to the bank instead of your budget.
If you want a new home or car (or anything which requires a loan), you will go to the bank. You fill out an application for pre-approval and find out that they tell you that you can afford a $300,000 home with an interest rate of 3.76%. Your monthly payment will be $1,391.05.
While that looks like it will work according to the numbers, you know that will really stretch things thinly. However, a bigger house with that huge master tub and large backyard is so wonderful! The neighborhood is upscale and it is everything you want. However, is it what you can really afford?
Perhaps you really should spend only $900 a month instead. That would mean you should not spend more than around $200,000 for a home instead. That is $100,00 LESS than what the bank says you can afford.
By spending less, you have freed up money to allow you to actually live to love life – not life to pay for a home. If you find yourself in this situation, it might be wise to consider down sizing or maybe trying to refinance at a lower rate to reduce the amount you are paying each month on your mortgage.
6. Not doing research before shopping.
It is easy for us to overspend on things such as home repairs, clothing, gifts and more. The reason is that emotion normally drives us. If the refrigerator is no longer working, we worry and just know we have to get it fixed as quickly as possible. That may result in paying more than you should.
Instead, shop around and do your research. You should even do so before the unexpected happens. In the instance of an appliance repair, make some calls to find out the rates of various companies. Do research to find out who does good work. Then, write down that name and number so that when you need someone, you will know who you should call and know that they will not only do the work to your expectations, but also at a price you are willing to pay.
You should also look around for deals and the best prices on other items such as clothes and gifts. By taking a few extra minutes to do some research online, you might find a better price at another store, saving you time!
Read More: Why You Keep Overspending
7. Not teaching your children (now).
Kids are sponges. They take in everything they witness and hear around them. This can lead to them learning great things….but also not so great things. You want your kids to be smart in all areas of their life as they get older. Finances is one of them.
Start educating them at a young age. When my kids go to the store, they know that we can’t just buy anything. We talk about our budget with them and tell them that we have only a certain amount of money to spend on food, so we have to first cover the items we need and then we may be able to pick up that splurge item.
We also teach them financial responsibility. It is important that you start young with your children so that they understand the concept of how to manage their own money. Teach them about giving, saving and spending. By starting young, they will learn no other way of dealing with money than the way you teach them. That will set them on the path to financial independence as they get older.
Read More: How to Teach Your Children About Money
8. Not planning for the unexpected.
Let’s face it. None of us ever plans on losing a spouse, divorce or other financial hardships. But, the reality is that it can happen. It is important to plan now so that you are ready should that happen.
You need to sit down with your spouse or partner and have a candid discussion. As yourselves these questions:
- Who will raise our children if we are both gone?
- How much money will my spouse need should I pass away?
- How will we cover funeral and/or medical expenses?
- What happens if I become disabled and can no longer work?
Get your emergency fund in place. It should cover upwards of 6 – 12 months of your expenses. You will want to look at your budget and determine what would go away if you were out of work (things such as entertainment and dining out may have to be put on the back burner). You also need to add in the additional cost of health insurance premiums (if you get this through your employer). Then, work hard to try to build up your emergency fund so that you can support yourself, and your family, should you find yourself out of work.
Then, put systems in place. Get life insurance. Make sure your Will is up to date. Look into disability insurance. Check with your employer as they may offer some supplemental benefits to help cover some of these expenses. They may offer some sort of disability insurance at a reduced premium rate.
Read More: How to Really Plan for the Unexpected
9. Not having a debt pay down plan.
There is no such thing as “good debt.” The best debt of all is no debt. You may think that you only owe $800 in credit cards, but that is $800 too much!
You should take the steps to get out of debt right away. There are some simple things to keep in mind with any debt plan:
- Make sure you do not spend more than you earn (that means do not use credit cards or loans to overspend).
- Figure out your monthly payments to get the debts paid down.
- Set a deadline to getting out of debt.
- Put it ALL in writing and stick to it!
10. Ignoring them completely.
It is a fact that ignoring problems never makes them go away. They are still there. The same holds true with your finances. If you are ignoring them, things will not improve.
If you find you are in over your head, check with your bank. For example, CommunityAmerica offers free assistance to anyone who wants to get out of debt. They even have financial planners available to assist you. You never know what services are out there unless you ask.
It is not how much you make that matters, it is what you do with it. Making wise financial decisions can keep you from throwing money away and helps you gain more control, leading to happier life.