Smart SpendingSmart Spending

10 money mistakes nearly everyone makes

How many of these errors are you guilty of, and how much are they costing you?

By Stacy Johnson May 7, 2012 11:47AM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyUSA Today recently ran an article suggesting my generation needs to get a clue about money. Citing studies showing most young people have "poor financial literacy," the article says, "Today's 20-somethings hold an average debt of about $45,000, which includes everything from cars to credit cards to student loans to mortgages."


But it appears that when it comes to money, older isn't necessarily wiser. CNN says the national average consumer debt is $210,236. Even if you take mortgages out of the equation, it's still more than $36,000. And according to an April poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, "When asked to describe the state of their personal financial situation, 80% of more than 1,400 respondents admitted their finances were in need of a major overhaul."


In the video below, Stacy Johnson takes a look at some of the major money mistakes many of us make. Check it out and read on for more.

How many of these mistakes have you made?


1. Paying much, earning little

Bad move: Paying 20% interest on a credit card while earning less than 1% on savings. 

Better move: After ensuring you have an adequate cash cushion for emergencies, use low-earning savings to pay off high-interest debt. Exception: If there's any chance you'll lose your job, corral as much cash as possible.


Image: Car on stack of money (© Dynamic Graphics/Jupiterimages)2. Buying new when used would do

Bad move: Shelling out $20,000 to $30,000 for a new car.

Better move: Avoid a monster depreciation hit by buying used. Cars are made better today than in years past, which makes buying them used less risky.


3. Passing up retirement plans

Bad move: Not participating in your employer's 401k or other retirement plan at work, especially if it includes matching money. Not only are you failing to save for retirement, you're missing potential tax deductions and something rare in the financial world -- free money.

Better move: Sock all the money you can spare into a tax-advantaged retirement plan like a company 401k or an IRA. Take advantage of employer matching contributions and tax breaks.


4. Being the first on your block to own the latest gadget

Bad move: Waiting in line, paying a premium, or worse yet, borrowing so you can own the latest tech bells and whistles.

Better move: Being first is an expensive pastime. Wait a few months and you can own a debugged version for less.


5. Paying retail for stuff you rarely use

Bad move: Spending big bucks on a ladder, lawn mower, snow blower, or other expensive hardware you're going to use infrequently.

Better move: Borrow rarely used stuff from friends or family, rent it, or form a neighborhood co-op to share the expense, storage, and use among the people on your block. Going in on something with just one neighbor reduces both cost and clutter by 50%.


6. Paying extra for low deductibles

Bad move: Paying a lot more for car, home, or sometimes health insurance because it includes a low deductible.

Better move: Self-insuring by raising your deductibles to as high as you can comfortably afford. Raise your car or home insurance deductible from $250 to $1,000 and you can cut your premium by 15% to 30%. (How does your car insurance compare?)


7. Buying books

Bad move: Paying $29 for a best-selling hardcover that isn't as good as your friend said and that you found too boring to finish. Even if it's great, how many times are you really going to read it?

Better move: Reading the copy you already paid for with your taxes. It's sitting on the shelves of your local library. And you might not even have to leave your desk to get it, because it could be available as a free download.

8. Paying for water

Bad move: Spending $1.50 for a plastic cylinder containing an abundant and freely available natural resource -- water.

Better move: Buying an insulated water bottle and filling it yourself. Don't trust your local water quality? Purchase a home water filter.


9. Buying name brands

Bad move: Paying $8.50 for 100 name-brand acetaminophen tablets. 

Better move: Looking a few inches farther down the shelf and getting a 500-tablet bottle of the generic brand with the same ingredients for $11.99, thus saving 70%. Read "7 things you should always buy generic" and stop contributing to some big company's advertising budget.


10. Wasting savings

Bad move: Saving $500 a year being a little more frugal, then wasting it on a $2 coffee every weekday morning.

Better move: Whenever you figure out a way to carve a few bucks out of the budget, increase your savings by a like amount. Otherwise, you're likely to fritter it away elsewhere -- the financial equivalent of running in place.


More on Money Talks News and MSN Money:

May 8, 2012 1:14PM

Tip #1 should be rephrased thusly:


Paying 20% interest on a credit card .  FULL STOP.


Savings have nothing to do with this issue.  The underlying problem here is simply having spent more than you afford to pay for.   This argument should then go on to look at what you bought, carefully assess what you actually *needed* and plan to pay the debt down as fast as possible and AVOID using the credit card until that is DONE.    The desired outcome is a better managed budget.

May 7, 2012 5:09PM
Follow Dave Ramsey's 7 steps and you'll live like no one else.... of course in his early steps you'll have to live within you means and clear your non-mortgage debt so most people won't do that, too much pain...

Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.


Smart Spending brings you the best money-saving tips from MSN Money and the rest of the Web. Join the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.