We aren’t all given the same financial education as we grow up. Some of us have a strong foundation of role models and knowledge, but others have to learn from our mistakes.
There is a middle ground, though. By paying attention to the experts as well as those who have learned the hard way, you can create a stable financial future for yourself.
No matter where you’re at in your money journey, there are things you should do to be successful. There are also things to never do, like these five money errors you should completely avoid in your life.
1. Piling Up Credit Card Debt
A very common way of living for people today is to juggle credit cards. When you have to use your income to make minimum payments, you need to use another card to buy groceries and gas.
As the credit card debt piles on, it becomes difficult to dig your way out of. You might find yourself applying for new cards just to keep up with other expenses.
This is a cycle that will almost always eventually snowball into a big mess. One late payment, resulting in a late fee that puts you over your credit limit, brings down the whole precarious minimum payment pile you had.
This type of money error should be avoided at all costs. Limit your credit card debt as best as possible and try to pay more than the minimum every month.
2. Going Into Debt for Special Occasions
Birthdays, graduations, holidays, weddings … the list of reasons to celebrate seems to never end!
Of course, you can’t show up to a party without a gift. And if you’re the one throwing the shindig, it’s got to be the best!
These are normal thoughts that convince people to go into debt for a special occasion. But they are not smart financial decisions.
Try to make a budget that works within your means without using credit cards or loans.
Homemade meals and gifts are frequently more valuable than anything you buy in a store anymore. Decorations get thrown out after the party. Your fancy gift may never get used.
There is no point in going into debt for any occasion. The day will pass, but your money problems will remain long after it is gone.
3. Living Without a Budget
If you are going through your week without a budget, yet you know you need one, chances are you’re in the “comfortable” zone. You can spend money as you please, within reason, but you’re aware that the bills are piling up.
Putting yourself on a budget doesn’t mean cutting your credit cards and slicing your fun money. It means that you have to get aware of the debt you have and make a plan to pay it off.
You also can get savvy as you look at your budget and check for places to save money. Comparing car insurance rates and replacing your satellite subscriptions with streaming, for example, are quick ways to save a few dollars.
Check your interest rates and payoff amounts. Watch your bank statement for unused subscription services. Then create a goal, with action steps, to knock out each debt one at a time.
4. Living Beyond Your Means
The most common way of getting in over your head in debt is to try to live beyond your means. Commonly referred to as “keeping up with Jones’,” this habit requires an entire lifestyle change.
If you’re always the first to have the latest and greatest gadget, or you have to have the newest cars and clothes, this is a dangerous way of living.
Unless you already have a significant nest egg in your emergency fund and your retirement stash is healthy, there are better places to put your money.
5. Not Paying Attention to Your Credit Score
Our credit ratings are something we think about occasionally, when we are considering making a big purchase. The rest of the time, it’s an afterthought for most of us.
But your credit score doesn’t stay still just because you forgot about it. It’s either going up or down, based on your money habits.
A decade ago, you had to write and request your credit score from one of the major credit bureaus. Today, there is no reason not to know exactly what your rating is. Free companies like Credit Karma and Mint, as well as many credit cards, will give you your score and let you know what it entails.
Being money-savvy isn’t just about doing the right things. It’s also about avoiding common mistakes in your daily habits and financial plannings.
With these five errors in mind, you can set yourself on a firmer financial path to a successful future.