Nobody is perfect. At some point, we’ve all made a financial decision that has left us questioning our own sanity. While one mistake probably isn’t enough to sink your ship, several small leaks can make it hard to stay afloat. Here are five ways you’re sabotaging your finances and how to stop now.
#1 – You spend money like it’s going out of style
Budgets often get a bad rap because some people automatically assume you can’t have any fun. However, that’s definitely not the case. A budget is just a plan for how your money will be spent. So, if you prefer to use your food allowance to eat out rather than cook, that’s on you. Just make sure you’re not spending more than you can afford. An easy way to track your spending is to use the envelope system. Simply divide your paycheck into categories (envelopes) and assign each one a dollar amount. Anytime you make a purchase, deduct the expense from the appropriate envelope. Once the envelope’s empty, the spending stops until you get paid again. Prefer to use your smartphone? Give the Mvelopes app a try. It’s the same concept except you’ll be swapping real envelopes for electronic ones.
#2 – Saving for retirement is at the bottom of your priority list
Think you can survive off $16,320 a year? We hope so because that’s all the average person receives from Social Security. Give yourself some extra breathing room by saving for retirement now. The earlier you begin, the more time your money has to grow and the less you have to contribute. If your job offers a 401k plan, contribute enough to at least receive the company match. If you’re feeling really ambitious, aim to max out the account. This year, you can contribute up to $18,000 ($24,000 if you’re 50 or older). Not only will you be setting yourself up for a brighter future, your contributions can also help lower your tax bill.
If your employer doesn’t offer this type of plan, you can always open a Roth IRA and max that out instead. For 2017, the contribution limit is $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re 50 or older). Your contributions won’t lower your tax bill but when you retire, your withdrawals will be tax-free.
#3 – You took a low paying job and got comfortable
Not everyone has the luxury of holding out for their dream job. When your back is against the wall, you’re more likely to accept a lower paying position to keep money coming in. You may even tell yourself that this is only temporary until something better comes along. The problem is many people get comfortable and find themselves stuck in the same position years later. Don’t fall into the trap. If you’re struggling to get by and turning to credit cards for relief, it’s time to restart your job search. To land a better paying gig, we suggest polishing up your resume and updating your LinkedIn profile. Then create a job alert with a job site like Indeed or CareerBuilder. This way, you’ll be notified when positions matching your search criteria become available so you can apply right away.
#4 – You’re carrying a credit card balance
Failing to pay your credit card balance in a timely fashion can cost a lot more than you bargained for. While the penalty varies by issuer, you can expect your interest rate to climb as high as 29.99%. Plus, you’ll be slapped with late fees which run about $37 on average. If you’re currently in over your head, stop shopping and come up with a debt repayment plan instead. A popular solution is the snowball method. With this approach, you’ll pay off your cards from the smallest to largest balance. Start by making minimum payments on all your cards then throwing any extra money you have towards the smallest bill. Once that’s paid off, keep moving up the line until you’re debt-free.
#5 – Your account balance is $0
When you’re already struggling to make ends meet, saving for a rainy day tends to take a backseat. In fact, Bankrate reports that 24 percent of adults have no money saved for emergencies. This goes against everything financial experts preach. Ideally, you want to have between three to nine months’ worth of living expenses in your account. Saving such a large sum can seem impossible but don’t psyche yourself out. Instead, take baby steps and set monthly savings goals. By setting aside a little each month, you’ll eventually hit your mark. You can even setup automatic transfers with your bank to make the process easier.