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Stunningly bad money advice

Readers share unbelievably dense comments about personal finance they've heard. Got any to add?

By Donna_Freedman Dec 10, 2010 11:44AM

Talk about your latte factor! Smart Spending message board reader "AmberStorck" was told it would be silly to shell out 30 whole bucks for a coffee machine when you could just buy a cup for $3.50 at Starbucks.

Or how about this one: "I never redeem rewards points. It's just a waste of money."

Or: "I can't ride the bus because I don't know how." (Did this person fail "sitting down" in kindergarten?)

Another acquaintance confided to Amber that borrowing books from the library makes a person feel "so cheap."

Then there was the one who admitted that the smart phone did cost a lot but it was so handy -- and by any chance could Amber lend him a few bucks?

The No. 1 dumb thing Amber's ever heard: "But I have to have cable! I can't live without it!"

Bills, bills, bills

A reader posting as "Sharon 01" topped that one, though. A co-worker having trouble paying the cable TV/Internet bill continued to defend it. The woman's son would "freak out" if he couldn't play games online. And without cable, what would her unemployed husband do all day?

"Let's see: This is the same son who is getting all F's at school," Sharon mused, "and I think we all know what the husband could be doing."

Speaking of bill paying: "Mardavtwo" writes of someone who didn't know it was OK to pay your credit card statement in full each month. "The person was really surprised that this was allowed," Mardav reports.

A reader who posts as "Marti loves her lil monkey" says someone told her you should never pay more than the credit card minimum: "You don't want to give them any more of your money than you absolutely have to." This person loves giving out financial advice, Marti says, "and it's always awful."

Maybe she's a cousin of the person who told "MollyMouser" never to pay off her house because she'd lose her mortgage interest deduction. Another reader, "tiredboomer," has been told the same thing by several people -- a couple of whom "are now in danger of losing their homes."

(And their mortgage interest deductions, too.)

Faux food facts

MollyMouser is a master bargain hunter and strongly focused on nutrition. Yet people have told her that "coupons are a complete waste of time" and "it's too expensive to eat healthy."

Reader "HollyM" has heard that "eating out is cheaper than cooking." She figures they're not thinking about the long-term health costs from the "salt, fat and refined carbs" associated with cheap restaurant food. (Maybe they're too dazzled by the toys that come with those meals?)

"NancytheDrunkDreidl" reports that a co-worker eats lunch out almost every day. Apparently the woman and her husband eat dinner out a lot, too. The reason: "Their fridge does not keep things cold enough because it's old."

This same couple spent a storm damage insurance check on treats, rather than on fixing the roof, "then wondered why part of it caved in over their living room."

Wheels of misfortune

Another co-worker of Nancy's had a car his parents had given him outright. But it was "not his style," so he traded it in on a new car. He chose a five-year loan because "the monthly payments were cheaper" that way. D'oh!


Can't make the payments? You can always dream of a pal like "Pepperdoo," who reports this call from an acquaintance: "Hey! My best friend! Can you spot me $2,400? My BMW is getting repossessed and the towing guys are hooking it up right now!" (Of course, your dream pal would have to be a lot more gullible than Pepper.)

"Toniballster" has a friend who makes $100k a year but lives paycheck to paycheck. "I really need to start saving more money! It's so hard, though," this person lamented -- but a couple of days later shared the news that "we got a new Mustang last night!"

From "InsuranceGal" comes the tale of another barely-scraping-by friend who bought a new car. One year later, the pal confided that the phone had been shut off and the car payment was a month late, "but we don't want to get rid of any of our four vehicles."

Impoverished or imprudent?

As I noted in "Think you're broke? You probably aren't," some of the people who complain about being stretched often aren't managing their money very well.

I'm aware that many salaries aren't keeping pace with the cost of living. But once the basics are covered, we have a choice about how to use what's left.

For example, someone having trouble making medical co-pays might want to rethink her weekly manicure. (That was another one of MollyMouser's contributions to the thread.)

How about it, readers: Got any stunningly bad tales of personal finance to share?

Dec 10, 2010 5:30PM
How about: "Real estate will always go up 7-10% per year.  Just get into any house you can as soon as you can and in a few years you'll have enough equity to upgrade to the house you really want."  That was in the spring of '06.
Dec 10, 2010 9:22PM
I know a couple people like the ones in this article... One of them can't afford gas for the week and barely makes her house payments, but she HAS to have her I-phone with texting and internet access, and tells us that none of us would understand because we're too "old,"... The other person is deep in credit card debt, and has one kid, a job she hates, and an unemployed husband, but she let him buy a 55" LED flat screen TV (nearly $3000), because he "would be so disappointed if he didn't have something nice to play his video games on... and besides, it's HIS money"... Oh my...
Dec 10, 2010 5:50PM
I know someone who has spent around $100./month, plus vet bills, to keep her daughter's pet horse, even though neither the mom or the daughter (who is now married)  has ever ridden the horse. She's been paying this cost for about 12 years, even though money is tight, and says that she 'couldn't possibly disappoint DD' by selling the horse!
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