We all make bad financial decisions. We’ve all overspent one month, splurged and bought that thing we always wanted and didn’t need, got ourselves too far deep and had to dig ourselves out. You know the feeling. However, trying to prepare and avoid these money mistakes is easier than one may think. Sure, the unexpected comes up from time to time, but for the most part, common money mistakes shouldn’t be happening if you take the time to prepare and educate yourself.
In this post we’re going to go over some of the most common money mistakes people make and how you can fix them when you’re too far in to prevent them.
Common Money Mistakes Couples Make
First let’s talk about money mistakes couples make. When it comes to having two incomes combined, you think things would be easier, but in reality, it does tend to overcomplicate things. Join bank accounts and payments are now a part of your life, and you need to readjust your thinking when it comes to your money. Everyone has different financial goals and sometimes those financial (and life) goals can look different to each person in the relationship. Each person may have a different opinion and insight around finances as well. Here’s a bit of a guide to make sure you stay on top of your finances together as a couple.
It doesn’t take us to tell you how important communication is in a relationship. It’s important for the relationship as a whole, but also when it comes to your finances. Who is responsible for what payment? How much debt do you both have? What’s your partner’s spending habits like? These are the questions you need to ask to learn more about your partners financial responsibilities. Yes, it can feel incredibly personal and intrusive, especially early on in a relationship, however, it’s so important to be on the same page from day one. The last thing you want is for each of you to both assume the other is taking care of an important bill than your hydro gets shut off or you rack up a bad credit score for not paying your bills on time.
Debt = Serious
Everyone has different levels of debt. Whether it’s student loans, credit card debt, a lease you have on a car or a mortgage on your house, whatever it is, it’s important to make sure you’re doing your best to pay it off and not get deeper into debt. Debt doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad thing, and it’s important to not feel embarrassed about it. Instead, be upfront with your partner so you can come up with a plan of attack for paying off yours (or both your) debts.
When it comes to your savings plan, everyone has different ways they like to save and manage their spending. For your personal savings goals, retirement, and future, it’s important to not forget that these are critical and important. This is something that you need to be on the same page with for your partner, especially if you plan to “be together forever”. What do your future’s look like together? What do you want by the time retirement comes around or even before then? Are you both saving? Are those savings being pooled together? These are all things that need to be discussed with your partner.
Ways You’re Spending More Than You Need To
Are you spending more than you need to on things and don’t even know it? Costs versus convenience is a big question we all go through but there are many things in which you shouldn’t be paying extra for that you might be. These few dollars here and there can add up quick over time. Here are some areas you should watch out for:
ATM fees are one of the most common things we waste money on. They can vary in price from anywhere from $1 to $5, and even worse when traveling out of country. There are alternatives to taking cash out and it just takes some planning. Visit your bank to get cash when you can, and when traveling make sure you take out money or exchange before you go at your bank, or alternatively, bring cash to exchange at the airport versus taking out of a foreign ATM. Another alternative is getting cash back at a store that offers it like Shopper’s Drug Mart, or the grocery store.
Grab & Go Meals
This is pretty straight forward, and we’ve previously touched on how to save money grocery shopping and prepping meals. As quick and easy prepackaged meals can be, they can be pricey, and it’s much cheaper to buy groceries and prep yourself. There are pre prepared foods available in grocery stores to which are often cheaper than eating out at a restaurant, however, the cheapest alternative is to buy your own ingredients and do it yourself. Things like cut up pineapple versus a whole pineapple you need to cut yourself has a drastic price increase for conveinience. A pre-made salad can be the same cost as a whole bag of lettuce. You get the point.
Cell Phone Bills
When was the last time you looked at your cell phone bill? Especially with Canadian cellular companies, making sure you know what your plan includes is the best way to ensure you don’t get overcharged or aren’t paying for something you don’t need or use. Calling your provider every few months to can be valuable to get special promotions or upgrades since plans frequently change and become available. Also, if you’ve been with the same company for awhile, there’s sometimes loyalty discounts or promotions available that you could be taking advantage of.
When was the last time you went to the movies? We’re not saying you’re just going to stop doing this all together but between the movie ticket, popcorn and snacks, etc. you’re paying way more than you could if you just watched a movie on Netflix, or a similar service at home and made your own treats. If you are going to go to the theatre, go on cheap night or look for discounted tickets or rewards. For example, the Scene cards in Canada.
Travel is expensive but everything from food, drinks, extra luggage, etc. can add up quick with airlines. Once you step into the airport, everything gets more expensive and the best way to avoid these costs is to plan in advance. Pack carry-on only, bring snacks or a meal from outside of the airport, bring an empty water bottle to refill it past security. If you know you’re flying a flight that you won’t be served a meal, make sure you bring some food along with you. Plus, airplane food sucks anyway.
As much as we all would love to have a personal trainer whip us into shape, fitness comes with a price tag. Yes, it’s important to stay in shape, but there are so many ways you can do this without a crazy price tag. For example, you can rotate to different gyms and studios and try their “trial” memberships for cheaper. You could also do at-home work-outs with all the YouTube videos available out there for free, or take up running versus heading to an overpriced gym.
Sides at a restaurant are one of the most common things you get overcharged for, and most of the time you don’t realize you are getting charged for it. That second beverage, the side of guac, or even when you choose a healthier substitute like salad versus fries, these are all things that can add up quick on your bill. Make sure you’re reading the fine print and aware of what costs extra when ordering at a restaurant.
Saving for a Rainy Day
Every year, a large proportion of Canadians face unplanned emergency expenses, and those unplanned expenses can send you into a financial spiral when you don’t have a cushion or emergency fund to tap into. Yes, getting a GoDay payday loan in Ontario is an option, but being prepared so it’s less overwhelming is even better, and by not having one, this is one of the most common money mistakes people make.
Where To Start?
One of the main questions people ask about starting an emergency fund is where to start? The ideal emergency fund lets you see your money grow and gives you complete access to your funds quickly and easily when you need them. For example, you wouldn’t want to dip into your RRSP when an emergency strikes because there are penalties for taking out that cash, and it’s not as easy to access it. Tax-Free Savings Accounts can be a good option, but if you’re someone who will spend money when you have it, keep it on a separate card you leave at home, or make sure you aren’t easily dipping into it for that new purse or boots you want to buy instead. RBC has a tool to determine how much you should have saved in case of an emergency based on your current salary.
Who else feels like they are forever trying to save? Every time a paycheck comes in it’s like your money goes to bills or savings and nothing is left for fun? We feel you, and you may be thinking you have nothing left to give and put in an emergency fund, but it’s important to remember that it won’t happen overnight. It’ll take time to reach the desired amount of emergency savings, and starting small each paycheck will eventually add up quick. Figure out what’s attainable to you and how long it’ll take you to reach your goal for your emergency fund. The best part? Once you have that money set aside, you don’t have to continuously keep adding to your emergency fund unless you want to. The general rule is that you save the equivalent of 3-6 months worth of regular expenses (bills, rent, etc.) in your emergency fund.
When To Use Your Emergency Fund
The only time to use your emergency savings is when there is something that comes up that you aren’t prepared for financially. For example, your car breaks down and needs major repairs, your roof starts leaking and you need to repair it, a family member gets ill and you don’t have health coverage, you get the point. No, absolutely needing that new pair of $300 boots is not an emergency. It’s important that you always ask yourself if you’re really experiencing an emergency or if this is an expense that can be put off until you can save more.
The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) share some examples of unexpected financial emergencies including:
- Having your car breakdown
- Emergency visit to the veterinarian
- Job loss
- Health problems that prevent you from working
- Medical expenses/fees
- Home repairs or renovations (flooding, broken appliances, roof repair)
- Death of a loved one
- Unexpected travel (no, not a vacation)
Unexpected expenses that you would use your emergency fund should not be confused with occasional expenses such as preparing for the school year, special occasions, events like birthdays or weddings, or holiday expenses. Occasional expenses like these should already be planned for in your budget.
These are just some of the common money mistakes that people make. Make sure you secure yourself financially by following some of our tips in this article to prepare yourself for a financially stable future.