How To Avoid Financial Foibles

By Michael Peterson
In June 20, 2005

Even if you think you are a careful spender, you could be making basic financial mistakes that are common to almost all of us. To steer clear of these mistakes, follow these simple steps and be in better control of your bank account.

  • Don’t Miss The Catch. Whenever you hear or see a great deal, sale, or coupon, before you rush out to “cash in”, it is a good idea to stop and consider all the pros and cons. Are you wasting money on gas miles driving across town to a different grocery store to save a few cents on toilet paper? Are you truly saving?
  • Pick Your Battles. Similarly, if you have only a cell phone and no regular line, consider the value of making a call to your cable company or electric company to argue a few cents on your bill–how much is a 45 minute call going to cost you? Instead, either let it go, or wait and make that call from a regular line.
  • Understand Your Credit Report. If you aren’t familiar with the information on your credit report, you won’t know how to improve your credit. You could be paying higher mortgage rates when you don’t have to. Understand your credit report, and you are more in control of your finances.
  • Avoid the Budget Blues . Budget wisely, but don’t let it rule you. If you budget down to every nickel, dime, and penny, you could wind up frustrating yourself and giving up. Budgeting is like dieting–the stricter the diet, the harder it is to adhere to, and you might wind up gorging yourself on junk food in a fit of weakness. With your budget, allow for some give every now and then, so that you feel you have breathing room.
  • Watch Your Wallet . But there are some things you don’t include in the budget, and they can sneak up on you. Every cup of coffee or checkout counter magazine costs you a few dollars that add up over time. To know what you are really spending, keep a “spending journal” for a week, and scribble down what you spend on whatever incidentals you buy. That expensive cup of coffee every morning costs you over $1,000 a year. You can really see how that cash flies out of your wallet.
  • Know What’s Going On . Do not let your spouse handle all of the finances while you remain blissfully in the dark. You can be missing out on some major money decisions that you could have opinions about. More seriously, what do you do if something happens to your spouse and you are left in charge of the finances, but you have no idea how to handle them? It is best to know what you are dealing with.
  • Watch Those Credit Cards. We can’t stress this enough. Credit card mistakes can be huge disasters on your money matters. Do NOT let your bills and interest pile up. Do NOT get buried in debt. Use them wisely, and pay all your bills, in full and on time. Credit cards can be a useful financial tool, if you use them correctly.
  • Don’t Blow Those Windfalls. If you win some major money on Poker Night or get a hefty inheritance from Aunt Millie, don’t blow it all on toys and indulgences. Stop and think. You could use that money to get yourself out of debt, or invest it towards your future, or invest it in stable stocks and bonds that could turn it into a bigger sum. If you just take a moment and let the euphoria settle before you make any major decisions about that money, you can stretch it further and use it more wisely.
  • See The Forest For The Trees. You may think that saving a few dollars here and there, skipping the expensive coffee, brown bagging it for lunch isn’t worth it. But just as we noted before, those expenses add up. If those expenses add up, then so can the savings if you change your habits. If you and your spouse rent a movie every Friday instead of going to one at the theaters, you can save over $600 a year!
  • Plan For The Future. Put money into your 401(k). Start an IRA. Make considerations for emergency expenses when planning your budget. When it comes to finances, you cannot just live for today; you must plan for tomorrow, as well.

We all make mistakes every now and then, but some of those can cost money. Learn from your mistakes, and you can save money you didn’t realize you were losing.

Mike is the author of “Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips to Retire Rich” and he has been published in a variety of local and national publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, Deseret Morning News, LDS Living Magazine, and Physicians Money Digest. He holds a B.S. in business administration from the University of Phoenix.