Keeping track of expenses is sometimes easier said than done, and many of us often end up losing money without even realizing it. Overlooked subscriptions, high-interest debt, lack of a budget, and frivolous spending habits can all have a hefty impact on your bank account.
When I began my personal finance journey years ago, I was shocked to discover how much money I was haphazardly giving away without intending to. Once I decided to take hold of my expenses, I became aware that I had let thousands of dollars slip right out of my bank account over the years without noticing it.
I took action and became vigilant about my spending, making adjustments and analyzing my outgoings to see where I was making mistakes. This allowed me to reallocate that money to more fruitful ventures, like investments, savings, and retirement.
While there are many tried and true ways to tighten up your finances, recognizing your mistakes is crucial to safeguarding and maximizing your hard-earned income. By avoiding these 20 fiscal oversights, you can start making your money work for you a little better.
Not keeping track of expenditures can lead to overspending and a lack of awareness of where your money is going. Keep a record of all your transactions, both in cash and on your cards to manage your budget effectively. There are many budgeting apps out there that can help you stay on top of your financial game.
It’s easy to forget about monthly subscriptions for services or apps you no longer use. Take the time to review your subscriptions and cancel any that aren’t adding value to your life. A monthly charge of $5.99 here, and another of $2.99 there add up before you know it. You may be surprised at how many subscriptions you pay for that you do not use.
Unmonitored Subscriptions With Free Trials
Forgetting to cancel free trial subscriptions before they convert into paid ones can lead to unexpected charges. We have all been guilty of this. Set reminders or cancel immediately after signing up for trials to avoid a surprise charge on your statement a week or two later.
Careless monitoring of your bank account can lead to unexpected overdraft fees. Keep track of your spending to avoid these costly charges. If you tend to accidentally overdraft more often than you mean to, consider speaking with your bank about setting up overdraft protection if it is available. This will cut back on fees associated with overdrawing your account.
An accidental overdraft of just $1 can often result in a fee of up to $30, depending on your bank. Perhaps you thought you had more than you did in your account before making a purchase, which resulted in an overdraft. These simple misjudgments can become quite costly.
Unnecessary Bank Fees
Regularly check your bank statements for unnecessary fees, such as ATM or account maintenance charges. Consider switching to a bank with fewer fees. Credit unions are often a good option for this reason.
If a local bank or credit union isn’t your cup of tea, consider applying for a premium account with a major bank. While these types of accounts typically require a minimum balance or a minimum monthly deposit, you can often benefit from special perks, which often include waived fees that would normally be charged to customers with a standard account.
Ignoring Investment Fees
High investment fees can eat into your returns over time. Start by researching and choosing low-cost investment options such as index funds or exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with minimal charges. Consider commission-free platforms that offer competitive fee structures.
Diversifying your portfolio can also help spread risk without incurring excessive fees associated with actively managed funds. Regularly reviewing and rebalancing your investments can prevent unnecessary charges and ensure your portfolio aligns with your financial goals.
Late Payment Penalties
Missing payment due dates for bills can result in late fees. Set up reminders or automatic payments to avoid unnecessary penalties.
Unattended Credit Report
Failing to check your credit report regularly could result in identity theft or errors that may affect your financial health. Review your credit report annually to safeguard your finances. This also helps you see where you stand when it comes time to apply for a major line of credit like a home or car loan so that you don’t get denied, which can result in your credit rating taking a hit in some cases.
Carrying high-interest debt like credit card balances means paying more in interest. Work on paying off these debts as soon as possible to save money in the long run. Use a debit card over a credit card when you have the means to do so. Interest adds up quicker than you think.
Failing To Negotiate
Not negotiating prices or terms when making big purchases means missing out on potential discounts. Don’t hesitate to negotiate for better deals.
If you’re carrying credit card debt, consider taking advantage of balance transfer offers via other banks, which may give you a reprieve from paying high interest on your current credit card account. You can also speak with your creditor about negotiating a lower interest rate to help you pay down your debt.
If you own a home or vehicle, it may also be worth speaking with your lender about refinancing options, especially if your situation has improved since you first obtained the loan.
Failing to claim all eligible benefits from your employer, such as matching retirement contributions or healthcare incentives, means you’re leaving money on the table. Not taking full advantage of workplace benefits like flexible spending accounts (FSAs) or commuter benefits means missing out on tax-saving opportunities. Maximize these benefits to save money.
Check any contracts you signed upon being hired and familiarize yourself with the benefits you are entitled to, as this can vary based on where you live.
Unoptimized Insurance Policies
Failing to review and update insurance policies can lead to overpaying for coverage you don’t need. Periodically reassess your insurance needs to ensure you’re not paying more than necessary.
Leaving lights, electronics, or appliances on when unused results in higher utility bills. Develop energy-saving habits to cut down on unnecessary expenses. Switching to energy-efficient appliances can help with this. While there may be an initial investment, you will save money in the long run.
Poorly Maintained Vehicles
Neglecting regular maintenance for your car can lead to higher repair costs in the long run. Keep up with scheduled maintenance to prevent costly breakdowns.
Unused Gym Memberships
You may be surprised at how many gym memberships go unused. Paying for a gym membership that you rarely take advantage of is a pointless waste of money. If you’re not utilizing it, cancel or switch to a more cost-effective fitness option.
Ignoring Discounts and Coupons
Not taking advantage of discounts, coupons, or cashback offers means missing out on potential savings. Keep an eye out for deals when shopping. Sign up for loyalty programs at the places you shop at often, and consider using apps like Ibotta and Rakuten to get cash back on purchases.
Unused Gift Cards
Forgetting about gift cards or leaving them unused is just throwing money away. Make it a habit to use them, or consider selling them if you won’t use them yourself.
If you don’t have any unused ones, consider looking for promotions that can help you earn free gift cards for the places you shop at frequently. Joining loyalty programs and signing up for brand and company newsletters is one way to be in the know about such offers.
Unplanned purchases can add up quickly. Impose a waiting period before making non-essential purchases to curb impulse buying. This helps you practice healthy financial planning techniques and stops you from making frivolous purchases you may regret later.
Paying For Brand Names
Preferring brand-name products over generic alternatives without considering their value or quality can significantly impact your budget. Evaluate if the brand is worth the extra cost before splashing out cash unnecessarily.
Frequent Dining Out
Eating out regularly can drain your finances. Plan meals and cook at home more often to save on restaurant bills. Making a shopping list and sticking to it can also help avoid making impulse purchases you don’t need.
Try planning meals ahead of time and allocating a set amount to a weekly grocery budget. Buying in bulk can also help you save money on the things you frequently use.