Over the past 4-5 months, I’ve made a ton of changes in my financial life. I’ve worked very hard to identify my problem areas, reduce wasteful spending, save money, and hold myself accountable. Despite these efforts, though, I have noticed that I keep making some of same mistakes that caused my financial downfall in the first place. While I feel like I’m fairly safe from returning to my old ways, I also realize I still have a LOT of room for improvement.
Mistake 1: Window shopping.
I’ve been on a shopping/spending freeze since December. That means I don’t go into stores. Period. The one time I broke this rule was enough to prove that a shopping freeze is appropriate. Yet I find myself searching through Amazon, Target, and Old Navy and adding things to my online shopping cart. I don’t buy them, but the want is still very much there. I have 37 bookmarks for things I absolutely must buy “when I have the money.” Well, at that rate, I’ll never have any money because I’ll spend it all on stuff I don’t need. I don’t know why it’s so hard to stop looking – what am I even looking for? The consumer frame of mind is hard to set aside, even when I’m motivated.
Mistake 2: Keeping cash.
I hate cash. I always have. In my brain, cash is separate from the money in the bank and I don’t have to account for it. Recently I’ve been selling some of the random junk in my house, and every time I get cash in my hand, I make the decision to keep it instead of putting it in the bank. Ahem. Let me repeat that. I make the decision to keep it. That’s right; I look at the money, think about it, and make a conscious choice. If I get a large amount, it’s much easier, but less than $50? It’s going in my pocket and I promise I won’t even be able to tell you where I spend it. I don’t even know how much money I’ve wasted at this point, but I’m sure it’s a substantial amount. Given a choice, I ask people to pay me via check or PayPal, but I have to be honest – who even writes checks any more? And PayPal isn’t always a possibility. It’s hard to tell people, “Look, I need this money, but if you give it to me I’ll waste it on crap. Please take it to my bank for me.” I did order an entire pad of deposit slips so I won’t have the excuse, “What if I need this deposit slip for something important?” Mostly, though, I’m going to have to make a conscious decision to stop this madness.
Mistake 3: Failing to create concrete savings goals.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m saving money. I have $1100 in my savings account right now, which is a miracle for me. But aside from saving $5000 in an emergency fund and contributing $200 a month to my Roth IRA, I haven’t created any other goals for myself. I feel like I should be saving for something I want or need so I can have the joy of getting something I worked for. Honestly, I should probably start saving for some bedroom furniture – I’ve been in my house for 16 months and still don’t have a headboard, dressers, or nightstands. (I do have a step stool beside my bed with my alarm clock on it. I have to go get it periodically to reach something in the top cabinets in the kitchen. How ghetto is that?) I’d also love to take a real vacation next year. Sometimes I think I avoid setting financial goals with a time limit because I’m scared I won’t get there on time. Which is a stupid excuse.
I could probably keep going and make this “100 Money Mistakes I Keep Repeating,” but I try not to overwhelm myself. Right now, these are the things that are bothering me most. While the solutions may seem obvious, I refuse to say I’m going to do something I know darn well I won’t do. I just need to sit with these mistakes for awhile, decide whether it’s worth it to keep making them, and make a plan.
What money mistakes are hardest for you to stop making? I’d love to hear your comments!