When it comes to money, we all make mistakes. Most financial mistakes are common, but many small mistakes can add up to create financial hardship. I know a lot of us wish we could turn back the hands of time to correct some of the things we did in our past.
Unfortunately, we don’t have a DeLorean to go back in time, so I have created a list of 9 of the most common financial f*ck ups that often lead people to major economic suffering.
Steering clear of these mistakes could mean the difference between financial failure and financial freedom.
1. Living Off Of Your Parents:
If you have parents who helped you pay for tuition, phone, rent, or insurance, you are lucky because many people do not have that luxury. When used to limit debt or reduce expenses for a few years, generous parents can help you achieve financial independence quickly. But they can also have the opposite effect. Money from your parents is great, but only if you’re using it to build your own financial life. If, however, your parents giving you money is hindering your ability to live within your means without help, then you might be in trouble when they stop giving you assistance. Navigating finances for the first time on your own isn’t always easy, it can be really tough at times, but it’s the best way to learn how to be an independent and responsible adult.
2. Excessive Spending:
EThis one is an obvious financial f*ck up. Excessive spending might not be what you initially think of, like buying a pair of Louboutin heels or a Gucci purse. A lot of times many small expenses can add up to become an excessive amount. It may not seem like a big deal when you pick up that $5 venti mocha latte, 12 pack of beer, or eat out somewhere cheap, but many small ticket items can really add up. Let’s take the mocha latte as an example. If you spend $5 a day at Starbucks that’s $1,825 a year. It doesn’t seem like much at the time of each purchase, but that $1,825 could have been an extra mortgage payment or a couple of car payments. And that’s just one excessive purchase. Add up your daily coffee, mani pedi’s, UberEats, happy hours, energy drinks, unnecessary target runs, and countless amazon purchases that were not needed and you could really have racked up quite a bit of money that could have definitely been better spent elsewhere. Plus, if you're struggling financially, avoiding excessive spending really matters. If you are only a few dollars away from foreclosure or bankruptcy, every dollar will count more than ever.
3. Too Many Payments:
Monthly payments add up. Ask yourself if you truly need items that keep you paying every month, year after year. From cable, Hulu, Netflix, the gym you never go to, your Boxy Charm or Etsy, too many payments can put a dent in your savings and not provide much value in return. Consider whether the expense is worth it.
4. Living On Borrowed Money:
This one is a very common financial f*ck up that most of us do and none of us will admit to. Too many of us these days live on credit. We tell ourselves we need something and we can afford it so we purchase it and throw it on a credit card. Then when the bill comes due at the end of the month we are surprised to see that we can’t afford it and carry on a balance to the next month, and then the month after that, and so on. That is how we get ourselves into enormous amounts of debt. If you cannot afford to buy it in cash, then you cannot afford it at all, PERIODT! If you like to use your cards for purchases so that you can rack up points or miles, then make sure that you have enough money to make that purchase beforehand so that you can pay off your credit card balance at the end of each month. If you do not have the money to make the purchase then simply do not make the purchase!
5. Big-Ticket Purchases:
Spending too much on big-ticket purchases is a financial f*ck up that occurs often that many are not even aware occurred. We tell ourselves that these purchases are necessary so we have to spend on them. Or we tell ourselves that we deserve the best. The most common big-ticket purchases we overspend on are our vehicles, homes, and vacations.
When buying a vehicle, please be aware that these are depreciating assets. Once you purchase a vehicle and take it home it will never be worth as much as you purchased it for. Most people acknowledge that boats, motorcycle’s, ATV’s, etc. are not necessary. Most people also view cars as a necessity, although, that might not be the case depending on where you live. In either case, if you plan on purchasing a vehicle, do your homework and make the right choice. You do not need a brand new super luxurious car, you need a reliable one that is in your budget. Do not buy a brand new Lexus for $80,000 when you only have $3,000 for a down payment, You will clear out your savings and be paying for a lifetime. Instead, put $1,000 down on a super nice low mileage $10,000 car. Save yourself $79,000 that you can put towards anything other than the dealerships pocket.
The number one big-ticket purchase we overspend on is our home. Often we rush to buy a home. We think that once we graduate from college we are supposed to fall in love, get married, buy a house, have babies, lead wonderful careers, and live happily ever after; but that is not the reality for most people. There is no need to rush your timeline to follow the constructs of anyone else’s. If you buy before you are ready then you will feel the burden of that financial f*ck up. Sometimes renting for a while until you are truly ready is the better route. If you rush and buy in an area you outgrow, you overpay, you have bad financing, you clear out your savings, or you underestimate the cost of renovations it could end up costing you tens of thousands of dollars in the long run. And not only can you lose money in the acquisition, but you can also lose money when you choose to overspend on unnecessary “home improvements”, or pull equity out on your home for the wrong reasons.
Another big-ticket purchase that people tend to overspend on is vacations. We want to travel and see the world, but at what cost? Is going into debt, ruining your credit, or delaying buying a car or home worth your luxury vacation? I don't think so. So I will break this one down super simple: Vacations should be budgeted throughout the year as a monthly expense so you can pay cash and don’t end up paying excessive interest and fees. This follows the same premise as borrowing, if you do not have the money to pay for it upfront then you cannot afford it at all and you need to save up for it longer.
6. Living Paycheck To Paycheck:
According to the Federal Reserve, many households are living paycheck to paycheck. This can be disastrous if an unforeseen expense arises. When you live paycheck to paycheck you need every dime you earn. Oftentimes your whole check is already allocated to pay bills before it even arrives, so one late or missed paycheck can throw everything out of whack. You should always aim to have at least $1,000 saved in an emergency fund to begin with and to eventually save a fully-funded emergency fund of 3-6 months worth of expenses. Your emergency fund is there to create a buffer for when unforeseen expenses occur, ranging as small as replacing a $100 flat tire and as large as paying a $1,000 deductible for a car accident. Loss of employment or changes in the economy could also drain your savings and place you in a cycle of debt paying for debt. So a 3-6 month buffer could be the difference between keeping it together and going into panic mode, asking everybody and their mama for a handout because you didn’t save any money for a rainy day.
7. Going To College Unnecessarily:
Too often, young people see college as a ticket to wealth. You sign up, you pay tuition, you graduate, you get an awesome job, and then you make the shmoney. But unless a college degree is necessary for the career you are pursuing, borrowing tens of thousands of dollars and possibly taking a couple of years off of working can be a major financial setback. You have to ask yourself if the potential reward is worth the sacrifice.
8. Not Investing:
I will let you in on a little secret, if you do not invest your money and make it work for you, you will always be working for it. Do not commit this financial f*ck up and fall behind. Using tax-advantaged retirement accounts and other investment vehicles can help you build a good nest egg through compound interest over time. Setting a strategic investment portfolio and plan for your unique situation is key to building assets for a successful retirement. Make sure that you make monthly contributions to your investment accounts. The earlier you begin, and the more you contribute, the bigger the nest egg you will create. I advise starting by just allocating 5% of your take-home pay to investing, then graduate to at least 15%. Just be advised that you need to understand the time your investments will have to grow and how much risk you can tolerate. A qualified financial advisor can help you make educated investments based on your investment time horizon and financial situation. Or you can do your own research and cut out the middle man. Whatever you feel is best for you.
9. Not Having A Plan:
The worst financial f*ck up you can commit is not doing sh*t. Your financial future depends on what you do right now. People spend countless hours binge-watching their favorite shows or scrolling through their social media but rarely set aside even an hour a week for their finances. You need to know where you are going and how you are going to get there. Make a list of your financial goals, construct a plan to reach those goals, and then stick to that plan. Make your finances a priority.
Basically, we all f*ck up sometimes. It is up to you to educate and discipline yourself so that you do not continue to make the same mistakes. It is OK to fall off course as long you realize you fell off and you get back on.
The key to financial freedom is to take it one step at a time and to keep pushing forward.