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10 Financial Traps that Waste Your Hard-Earned Money

Updated on March 13, 2012
Don't let the sun go down each day without having a financial plan for you and your family
Don't let the sun go down each day without having a financial plan for you and your family

Whether you're struggling to get out of debt or working hard to pay monthly bills, you have the same goal--make your hard-earned dollar stretch as long and as far as possible. My best financial teachers have been my parents AND circumstances.


How often have I wasted money? Too many times to count. My guess is that we all have done similarly, oftentimes without even realizing it.

Here are a few of the financial traps I've fallen into:

Having the latest technology (cell phones, computers, cable TV, tablets, games, music)

There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these things EXCEPT if we don't need, use or cannot afford the items or services that we feel obligated to purchase.

Make a list of all the monthly subscriber fees that you now have to pay in order to keep your gadgets going. Then, remember back to 10 or 15 years ago when you didn't have any of those expenses.

Paying for convenience

If you are constantly running behind and feeling disorganized, you will start paying extra money for the convenience factor. Think take-out meals, packaged/frozen foods, pressed and laundered shirts, door-to-door shopping services, and gifts purchased in a hurry.

Having it now and not saving first

We all have material wants and desires--things that we would really enjoy. However, in recent years, more and more of us do not physically wait until we have cash in hand to make a purchase. When I was first married, we did not use credit cards at all. We had several savings accounts at a community bank. We faithfully deposited different amounts of money into different "buckets" and WAITED until we had enough dollar bills to buy the desired item or experience. Hmmmm....maybe I should go back to doing this??


SNL Skit with Steve Martin

Not doing a task or job yourself

Always assuming that you have to hire someone else to do a task or job or maintenance issue either at home or work will eventually cost you thousands of dollars.

Just a few examples of things you could definitely try doing yourself (educate yourself a little first by reading manuals, research on the Internet, take a class at local home improvement store, or ask a knowledgeable friend to help):

  • Yard work - mowing, seeding, mulching, weeding, trimming trees, planting flowers/bushes
  • House work - cleaning, dusting, organizing
  • Home improvement - painting, caulking, sealing the driveway
  • Auto repair - oil changes, brake pads, changing light bulbs

Maybe Try a Little Manual Labor?

Trying to chop up a tree stump
Trying to chop up a tree stump
My son trying his hand at chopping
My son trying his hand at chopping
My son trying to pull it out
My son trying to pull it out
Getting ready to haul it away
Getting ready to haul it away

Not submitting rebate forms or redeeming coupons

Have you ever forgotten to submit rebate form or redeeming a pricey coupon? Sadly, I remember the time I cleaned out a drawer and found the rebate receipt for the refrigerator that I spent hours looking for. It was no longer worth the $90.00 promised rebate.

My best piece of advice is to submit your rebate form immediately. Don't even wait one single day from the moment the paper is in your hand. Same thing for coupons.

Losing track of monthly automatic payments

Everything from the electric bill to the gym membership fees can be set to automatic. Whether it is from your checking account or processed through your credit card, these monthly payments add up AND can be hidden from our consciousness. Do you really remember all the things you've signed up for? OR do you realize when a FREE trial subscription suddenly becomes a monthly committment?

Know the exact details and amounts you should see taken out every month, and re-check your statements every month to make sure there are no mistakes or double-billing. You should double check with your spouse or family member to talk through these expenditures.

About a year ago, I was looking through an entire year's worth of credit card statements for qualified business expenses. There was one monthly charge for a revolving business service that I thought my husband had initiated. Apparently, he didn't know he was "signed up" when he bought a particular product. Long story short...we could only recover 3 months of the service charges from our credit card company.

Not price shopping - selecting different stores to shop at for different things

My mother-in-law is a pro at knowing exactly which store to go to for different items. She studies the circulars and is familiar with pricing at a variety of grocery stores, drug store chains, super stores, and discount shops. She also watches when certain things go on sale during the week and heads to that one store for that one particular item.

A word of caution: this tactic requires time and patience and some of us are lacking in that area, but it is a great way to save money.

Not taking care of my health

We all realize that being sick is expensive. While not all physical or emotional ailments are under our control, taking a proactive approach to our health makes good financial sense.

Smoking, drinking, and eating lots of processed foods are not only bad for your health, they are also very draining on your wallet. If you want to do a quick calculation of how much your smoking habit costs you:

http://www.health.com/health/library/mdp/0,,calc011,00.html#calc011-sec

Having Expensive hobbies

Many of the very fun things in life are VERY EXPENSIVE! Know where you Achilles heel is and how to keep it under control or you might find yourself buried in deep.

Here are a few activities that I love but realize I need to keep their costs in check: traveling, scuba diving, photography, staying in nice hotels, and funding my children's activities.

Having zero plan to deal with stress

Stress has a way of rearing its ugly head when we least expect it. Discover ways in which you can cope with your stress in a healthy manner. What helps you the most?

If you are stressed out, you are more likely to mishandle your finances since you are on a path of REACTING to circumstances and not planning proactively.


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    • Laurel Brunvoll profile image
      Author

      Laurel Brunvoll 5 years ago

      Thanks Diana Lee for responding. I think our fast-paced lifestyles can definitely be a detriment for those who have a hard time staying out of debt.

    • Laurel Brunvoll profile image
      Author

      Laurel Brunvoll 5 years ago

      billybuc, I appreciate your comments. I seem to mainly learn things the hard way so if it can help someone else--I'm glad!

    • Diana Lee profile image

      Diana L Pierce 5 years ago from Potter County, Pa.

      Well done. Going in debt is a big mistake for those who have spending problem.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank God none of those apply to me but I'm willing to bet quite a few of your comments will resonate with many readers....it may not be easy to live in the moment and watch your pennies but it is a practice that can be learned to save that hard-earned cash. Great hub!