3 Common, Yet Avoidable Financial Mistakes Most of Us Make

To hear or read the saying "nobody is perfect" sure makes one feel better after having made a mistake. The beauty in our imperfections is that we share many of them; knowing this allows us to commiserate with one another and work out new ways to make better choices. The 3 common, yet avoidable financial mistakes listed below are the type that most people experience! Whether you are currently affected by serious financial pitfalls, or are just looking to stretch your paycheck, allow this guide to help make things a little easier on your wallet.


1. Food and Drink

Are you avoiding grocery shopping which in turn causes you to spend money on fast food or dining out, or you are shopping for meals while you are hungry? Maybe you do not feel like making a list so you just meander around the aisles grabbing whatever looks good at the moment. 

Does bottled water appear to be really cheap bundled in those 24 packs at the store, but then you see most of them rolling around on the floor in your car half-empty or stacked up on your nightstand? Or maybe it is coffee that gets you - the fancy, expensive kind you purchase at the cafe down the street from the office. You swear you will just buy one per week, but find yourself there more often, like every day.

It is okay to make those types of mistakes since most of us do, but here are some ways to avoid them: 

 

  • ALWAYS make a shopping list based on what you are missing in your fridge and cupboards, otherwise you may double purchase things like produce and that food usually ends up in the trash.
  • USE grocery store circulars or apps to find what is on sale the week you are shopping.
  • SCHEDULE a time in your calendar for grocery shopping, so it does not become an afterthought but rather an important task. 
  • EAT a filling snack at home before you shop.
  • USE an online grocery delivery service if you are not disciplined enough to follow the above suggestions.
  • INVEST in a tap water filter for your sink. You can recycle those half-empty water bottles laying around your home for easy transport, or purchase an inexpensive hot/cold drink container, which can be used for coffee too!
  • MAKE coffee at home. It is ALWAYS cheaper and more time efficient than driving to the cafe and standing in line. And if you are too busy or lazy (let's face it, some of us are), you can still make it happen without depending on the coffee shop. 

 

2. Entertainment

Do you think you should still be paying for cable TV? Maybe you feel like you will be missing something if you cut the cord? How about ordering pricey appetizers before your meal on those special occasions when you dine out? Or indulging in happy hour at the bar because it seems like a better deal than "regular priced drinks." 

Does it feel like the movie you are watching at the cinema looks better at midnight on a Friday when it premieres? Window shopping with friends at the mall is fun and good exercise, but do you find yourself stopping off at the pretzel stand for a quick bite?

Many things related to entertainment have a marketing catch to get us to spend money. Here are some ways to save:

 

 
  • CANCEL your cable television subscription. Instead, switch to a service like HULU or SLING for your favorite TV shows, news, and specialty network programs. Use a cheap monthly plan like NETFLIX or AMAZON PRIME for movies new and old.
  • STOP ordering appetizers before your meal! Restaurant portions are huge these days, and you will more than likely end up taking half of your meal home and forgetting about it in the fridge anyway.
  • DRINK at home. Invite friends over for cocktail in your living room, you can even leave a cute tip jar on the counter to help cover the cost of providing the liquor.
  • WATCH movies in the theater the day after the release and during matinee time; doing this can save you over $5.00 per ticket in some cities. Also be on the look out for value cinemas that offer new movie releases a few weeks after the premiere for less than $3.00 per ticket. 
  • ALWAYS snack at home before window shopping. A box of 6 frozen pretzels costs the same as one pretzel at the mall.

 

3. Energy

You may think those small power strips used to control more than one appliance and electronics are just a gimmick. And does turning off lights that are not is use really save any money? Maybe you just leave your thermostat running the same temperature all year because it seems more balanced and cost effective. 

Are you perpetually turning the tap on and off, or worse, leaving the water running when you are brushing your teeth? Or maybe you are purchasing the cheapest lightbulbs because they appear to save the most money in the long run. 

You are not alone! Many people are making these types of financial mistakes. The good news is that there are solutions:

 

 
  • BUY a multi-plug power strip. Televisions, microwaves, speakers, and other gadgets are all energy vampires when not is use. Plugging them into a strip with an on/off switch allows you to cut the power to as many as you want in a split.
  • USE timers on your devices. Coffee machines, computers, even towel heaters can be set to turn on and off whenever you want, without draining energy. 
  • TURN your thermostat up or down (depending on the season) 10-15 degrees for eight hours per day to save 5-15% on your energy bill. 
  • BRUSH your teeth while you shower; this saves time and water!
  • AVOID incandescent lightbulbs; 90% of the energy they use gives off heat, while only 10% contributes to lighting. Purchasing a different type of bulb such as CFL or LED will not only save you a few bucks, but also keep your home cooler in the summer. And LED lights can be used in conjunction with daylight sensors. 

 

Mistakes are inevitable, but so is saving money if you learn how!

 

 

Majority of U.S. Bankruptcies Caused by Medical Bills

Nearly 56 million adults in the U.S. struggle with medical bills. And health-care bill related woes aren't just reserved for the uninsured; they continue to affect the 10 million INSURED adults who have accumulated debts associated with copays, deductibles, and other out of pocket expenses. With that information, it's no wonder that medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in America, as shown in recent findings by a division of NerdWallet - a price comparison site. 

"A lot of Americans are struggling with medical bills," said NerdWallet Health Vice President Christina LaMontagne. This type of analysis which looks at rising health costs is a first for NerdWallet. According to LaMontagne, "With an average American family bringing home $50,000 in income, a high medical bill and a high-deductible insurance plan can quickly become something they are unable to pay," he said. "If you have an out-of-pocket maximum of $5,000 or $10,000, that's really tough."

While many people assume that bankruptcies arise from poor money management such as credit card debt and overspending, it appears medical bills are the root cause. If not careful, health-related costs can actual create a credit card debt cycle in an otherwise financially healthy individual; this is due to credit cards being used to cover out of control medical expenses. In fact, more than 10 million average Americans will lose control of their finances because of medical related credit card debt. NerdWallet also found that 15 million people will resort to depleting their savings accounts in order to handle medical expenses.

People are being pushed to the point of bankruptcy after having to deplete their savings accounts and take on high-interest credit cards in order to ease the burden of health-related costs. Healthy people aren't immune from the issue either. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 83.6% of adults, and 93% of children, have had contact with a healthcare professional in the past year.  These percentages mean the majority of U.S. citizens are seeking some form of medical care.

While exercise and a healthy diet may prevent chronic illness, most people will fall ill despite good habits, and many will suffer from accident-related medical problems. Included in the Top 10 Reasons a patient may visit a primary care physician are things like injury, mental illness, and respiratory infections which can affect anyone in the U.S. regardless of the status of personal finances.

Overall, while medical insurance can help Americans ease the burden of inevitable health-related costs, there needs to be an all-inclusive alternative solution if people are to avoid bankruptcies caused by medical bills. For more information on how to take charge of your personal finances, and for classes on financial wellness, please contact the nonprofit organization Catalyst Academy.