When it comes to managing your money, it’s easy to become your own worst enemy. Bad financial habits can wreak havoc on your finances. But in some cases, it’s the things that you’re not doing that are the real problem. Here are just a few ways you could be setting yourself up for financial disaster without even realizing it.
1. You Don’t Have a Budget
A budget is the most basic resource in your financial toolbox. A budget is simply a breakdown of how much money you’ve got coming in versus how much is going out each month. Without a budget, it’s difficult to pay down debt, build savings and keep your spending in check.
If you don’t have a budget, the first thing you should do is start keeping track of your spending. Once you’ve got an idea of where your money’s going, you can compare your expenses to your income to see where you stand. If you’re spending more than you make each month or using credit cards to cover your shortfall, that’s a major red flag.
2. You’re Not Saving for a Rainy Day
There’s a saying that when it rains, it pours — and when an emergency happens, it pays to be financially prepared. If you’re living without a budget and spending every dollar you make, you’re going to be in for a rude awakening when a rainy day comes along. While you could use a credit card to cover an unexpected expense, you’ll likely end up paying significantly more in terms of interest than you would if you had just paid in cash.
Financial experts vary as to how much of an emergency fund you should have saved. Some recommend as little as $1,000 while others advocate having anywhere from three to 12 months’ worth of expenses saved. The idea of saving that much money may seem impossible but you shouldn’t let it stop you from stashing away as much as you can. Even if you can only set aside $10 or $20 every paycheck, having a small cash cushion is better than nothing when an emergency strikes.
3. You Neglect Your Health
While you may not think the two are related, not taking care of your health can have a significant impact on your finances. Generally, the healthier you are the less likely you’ll be to develop serious medical problems later on. A poor diet and lack of exercise could lead to major health issues, such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. The long-term cost of treating these and other serious health conditions could be crippling financially.
One of the biggest misconceptions about getting healthy is that you have to spend a lot of money to do it. If your budget won’t allow you to join a gym or shop at your local high-end organic grocery store, it doesn’t mean you can’t make healthy lifestyle choices. Simple things like taking a daily walk or incorporating more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet can lead to a healthier you and a healthier bottom line in the long run.
4. You Don’t Have a Plan
Setting goals is a great way to keep your finances on track but it’s impossible to reach them if you don’t have a plan. Whether it’s something small, like saving for a new TV, or something bigger, like planning for your retirement, having a plan improves the odds of reaching the finish line.
Planning is important when it comes to every aspect of your finances. For example, if you have a family, tools like life insurance and a will can help you secure their future should something happen to you. If you own a business, proper tax planning can ensure that you don’t end up on the hook with the Internal Revenue Service. Failing to plan is planning to fail so it’s vital that you give yourself the best shot at success possible.
5. You Procrastinate
Putting off opening an individual retirement account or contributing to your child’s college fund may not seem like a big deal, but you’re wasting valuable time and potentially losing money when you procrastinate. For example, the longer you wait to starting saving for retirement, the less time you have to build your nest egg. When it’s time to leave the 9 to 5, you could find yourself coming up short.
Procrastination is also dangerous if you’re in debt. If you’re not serious about paying down your credit cards, you could unnecessarily spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars in interest. The longer you stay in debt, the longer it’ll take for you to save or reach any of your other financial goals. (If you’d like to stop procrastinating and be proactive about managing your debt and credit, the Credit Report Card is a free tool that can help you track your progress.)
Building good financial habits takes time, patience and discipline — and taking the first step can be the hardest part. If you’ve been making any of these money mistakes, now is the time to put an end to the self-sabotage and get your finances back on track.