Are You Making These Silly Money-Wasting Mistakes?

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The following post is by MPFJ staff writer, Kelly Gurnett. Kelly runs the blog Cordelia Calls It Quits, where she documents her attempts to rid her life of the things that don’t matter and focus more on the things that do. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

You may consider yourself a keen budget-master who tries to make wise spending purposes, but yet you still can’t seem to get ahead. Something always comes up that throws your budget out of whack, or (even worse) you seem to keep going over your monthly targets without any idea how exactly it’s happening.

If this sounds like you, chances are you may be committing some common money-sapping mistakes without even realizing it. Eradicate these, and you’ll find your financial ship beginning to right itself.

Not having a budget to begin with. 

This is just plain foolish. Yes, it will take some time to set up—and yes, you may need to sit down with your family and make some hard decisions when it comes to enforcing the said budget—but this is the foundation for any healthy financial lifestyle. Without a budget, you’re just winging it, and that’s a recipe for disaster.

Buying something just because you have a coupon for it. 

There’s a reason companies put out coupons for their projects: to get you to buy them. (Duh, right? But it works.) 

Just because you have a coupon for $1 off the fancy name-brand toothpaste, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily your best deal; generics are often still considerably cheaper. Make sure you’re being savvy with your coupon usage by combining coupons with store sales and promotions to get the biggest discount and by keeping an eye on unit prices.

Caving under “limited time only!” pressure. 

Sure, your local furniture store is having a President’s Day sale this weekend only, and you just happen to be in the market for a couch. But, chances are that same store is also going to have a March madness sale, a St. Patty’s Day sale, an Easter sale, and any number of other “limited time only” blowouts for any possible occasion they can think of. 

So, don’t give in and buy something just because it’s on a time-sensitive sale. Do your research and comparison shop for the store with the best overall prices for the item you want—then wait for it to have its next “limited time only” blowout to get a real bargain.

Opening store cards just for the discount. 

If—and only if—you can regularly pay off the card balance in full every month, then opening credit cards at the stores you regularly shop at can be a smart move. But, that 5% off each purchase won’t do you a lick of good if it just tempts you to buy twice as much stuff, then making it impossible for you to pay more than the minimum balance each month. Any discount at the register will quickly be eaten up in interest charges—which will just keep building the longer you take to pay down the card.

Playing the balance transfer game. 

If (and once again, only if) you’re able to keep up-to-date with your credit card payments and are steadily paying down your cards, then transferring a balance from a high-interest card to a lower-interest card can be part of a smart plan of attack for chipping away at your debt. 

But, most people don’t use it this way. Instead, they play the rotating balances game to buy themselves more time while they continue to get themselves into deeper and deeper debt. If you’re having trouble making your payments or are beginning to feel overwhelmed by the amount of debt you’re carrying, seek professional help through a debt relief program. Don’t play the waiting game; every month you wait, more interest piles up.

Not having an emergency savings plan. 

One of the biggest budget-busters is that sudden big expense you weren’t planning on. Your dog gets sick, your car breaks down, the pipes in your basement burst. 

Even the best budgeters can be derailed by unexpected costs. So, plan for the unexpected by building up an emergency fund to have on hand for those times the unexpected inevitably happens. If you have to trim down some areas of your budget to make this happen, do it. It will be worth it.

How about you all? What other money mistakes have you seen people make (or maybe even made yourself)?

Share your experiences by commenting below!

    ***Photo courtesy of


    1. moneybeagle says:

      Furniture stores have the same sale week in and week out. In certain cases, you can save money with Limited Time offers but you have to know the price and be tracking for a while. Case in point, I'd been looking for a new TV for the family room, and had been watching prices for over a year. When one hit that was a $250 cut on a brand name that I had targeted, I jumped. Had I not set my criteria, been patient, and watched, I probably would have fallen for either paying a higher price or getting a less trustworthy brand.
      My recent post A Roofing Company Refused My Potential Business

      • CordeliaCallsIt says:

        Exactly! It always kills me to see these big, loud, confetti-strewn commercials for furniture stores for X holiday, because I know full well that next weekend I'm just going to be seeing another ad for another (often made-up) reason to “slash prices!”

        Patience and research are definitely your better bet in this arena.

    2. John S @ Frugal Rules says:

      I would also add not doing comparison shopping before making a purchase, especially a major one. With many having smartphones today, it is much easier to do and can be done in a few minutes. Often times you can find the same thing you want for cheaper. If it's a decent savings, why not do the homework to not spend as much?
      My recent post Things That Make Me Scratch My Head

      • CordeliaCallsIt says:

        So true. With the internet and smartphones, it's so incredibly easy to price-compare that it's silly not to.

    3. Opening a store card is a decent idea. We've done that for a few stores like Kohls, Sears and Banana Republic, but don't let those cards tempt you to head back to the stores to continue shopping just because you have a credit line with them!
      My recent post Reducing the cost of commuting by moving

      • CordeliaCallsIt says:

        Agreed. We have a Kohl's card because they're constantly having great sales combined with coupons, which you can only get with the card. But with any store card, you need to treat it just like cash: if you can't pay the balance off in full each month, the savings aren't worth it.

    4. FinancialBlackSheep says:

      I don't have an emergency fund (just used it in January), but I stopped doing all of the above. I will have debt paid off THIS month instead of my planned April. Then I will work on my emergency fund and everything else that needs working on. I am also working hard at getting a full time apprenticeship *crosses fingers* that will help too. My next step will be figuring out how to not go back into debt. 🙂
      My recent post Net Worth Update February 2013

    5. I normally save my money. I act like I have short arms and deep pockets so it's not easy for me to read for my wallet. =) It works out well because I have more money to invest with and to use to accomplish my dreams than if I ran out and bought everything that was on sale just because it was on sale.
      My recent post Why You Should Let Bad Ideas Fail

    6. I am guilty of going to the cinema every wednesday simply to take advantage of the two tickets for one offer. Maybe I should question if I'd rather have an evening at home watching a movie sometime! But surely we need these small pleasures in our lives?
      My recent post Saving money on your holiday

    7. My mother was very guilty of buying things just because they were on sale, and it bugged the snot out of me! I probably should push my parents to budget more, so we can build up more of an emergency fund. I myself need to make an emergency fund just in case my car breaks down, because it's 20 years old.
      My recent post Saving Money the “American” Way

    8. I am glad I am on the other side of those folks who make those mistakes. But I used to make those mistakes myself too. Not anymore. I like the plan of transferring balances to lower or actually to zero introductory CCs while still paying off the debt. it helps me paying less interest.
      My recent post Web feature – stock quotes ticker

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