I write a lot about mistakes I’ve made in the past when it comes to money and what we can all do to improve our financial lives. Over the last couple years, I’ve had to completely erase everything I thought I knew about money management and start from scratch. I’ve made some pretty amazing progress during that time, but I’m far from perfect.
After spending some time at the Texas EMS Conference this last week, I had the opportunity to network with some really amazing people. I noticed that a lot of people who had read my #MoneySmartMedics series would make comments in good humor about “money mistakes” that they were making. I would hear things like “don’t judge me, I’m swiping my debit card” or “I really didn’t budget for this”. It was as if everyone had this idea that I’m going to be hovering over them like a drill-sergeant to make sure they were paying with cash. Granted, it was all meant as a joke, but it did make me realize that I don’t talk about mistakes that I currently make.
Money management is a lot like going on a nutrition plan. You’re going to have “cheat days” or slip up from time to time. The important thing is that you don’t give up. When these things happen, just pick up where you left off and keep pushing forward. It’s not an exact science and your world isn’t going to come crashing down when you make stupid mistakes from time to time. When you adequately prepare yourself by creating things like emergency funds or sinking funds, you’re essentially protecting against yourself.
I thought I would take this week to share some frequent mistakes that I continue to make to this day (and probably will for a while):
Checking the Mail
I’m not going to lie, I’m absolutely terrible about this. Unless I’m waiting for a check or an item that I ordered, I’ll forget to open the mailbox. This habit probably started in my days of bill collectors constantly mailing me bad news. A recent example of this biting me in the ass was my cell-phone bill. AT&T had sent me notice that my auto-draft date was changing and that a certain feature on my account was going up in price. At the same time, my dentist sent me a letter than my insurance didn’t cover the anticipated amount on a recent visit and that I owed her practice another $300 for non-reimbursed expenses. Well guess what? The 2 items completely threw off my budget.
I showed up to the dentist expecting to pay $30 and was kindly reminded of my past-due amount of $300. I had the money to pay the amount, but I was going to have to completely re-write my budget for the pay period. On that same day, AT&T drafted their owed amount 2 weeks earlier than I had anticipated and for a larger amount. I wanted to put my head through my desk. Of course, all this could have been EASILY planned for had I opened the freaking mail a month earlier.
Updating Payment Information
This is a mistake that I hopefully will not make again. As we all know, debit cards expire. Well, when you have automatic payments coming out on those debit cards, it’s kind of important to update that information when it happens so that you don’t have an interruption in service. Once again, checking the mail usually lets you know that you screwed up before things get shut off…..just saying….
So there I was, walking into the gym, ready to beat myself up in the name of good cardio health when the kind lady behind the counter informed me that I couldn’t use the gym until I paid my past-due balance. Talk about embarrassing! Of course, I don’t carry my debit card with me, so I had to drive home, get the new card and return to the gym. That night I got home, logged into every account I had and updated my information. I also created an event with a 30-day reminder in Google Calendars to remind myself to do that the next go-around.
I screw this up a lot. I religiously write my budgets every time I get paid. I make sure to account for everything that is supposed to be drafted and anything that I anticipate spending over the next 2 weeks. That I got down, no problem. Where I screw up is when I add or remove a monthly expense. For example, I recently changed car insurance companies, so my payment amount changed along with my due date. I completely forgot about that and budgeted the incorrect amount at the incorrect time. This wasn’t the end of the world, but it was really annoying when it came out a week earlier than I had anticipated.
Another example would be some online services that I recently subscribed to. Blogging, coaching and promoting doesn’t come without expenses…well not unless you want to do everything the absolute hard way. I have a budgeted amount for things like web hosting, social media management, software expenses, etc. Well, I recently decided to add on a few services to make promoting my writing easier. What I didn’t do is remember to write down the payment draft date on my financial calendar. This was especially annoying being that I pay all my business-related expenses through my PayPal account. Come the following month, I didn’t transfer all the money needed to cover my expenses and I wound up paying late fees and having one service shut off temporarily. Annoying!
Now It’s Your Turn!
What are some money mistakes that you continue to make? Don’t be shy, I’m sure I’ve done FAR worse!
I currently live and work as a paramedic in North Texas. I've been involved in EMS since the age of 18, and have essentially spent my entire adult life doing what I love. My passion is helping my fellow first-responders achieve successful and rewarding through healthy minds, bodies and wallets. I love talking to and meeting new people, so please don't hesitate to reach out and say hi!