Everybody wants to be financially stable. We want the money to do the things we want to do and not have to worry about whether we have the money we need to pay our bills. Nobody wants to struggle with money worries. In fact, money trouble is one of the leading reasons people get divorced.
Everyone has their own definition of “making it.” Maybe you want to be a billionaire or simply make six figures. Maybe you just want your first salaried job after years of working in low paying hourly positions.
Whether you want to become financially stable by starting your own business or by getting a better job, there are common financial traps that can ruin your progress and leave you defeated. If you don’t avoid them, you may end up more in debt and financially unstable than before you tried to improve your situation.
Here are 25 financial traps you need to avoid while you’re trying to make it.
25. Investing in High Priced Classes
You’ll find an abundance of expensive classes that promise to teach you how to work for yourself, be wealthy, and change your life. It might even be tempting to pay for a class so you can benefit financially. However, it doesn’t make sense to waste money trying to learn how to save or make money. If you really want to take a class, only invest money into classes with tangible proof of outcomes. What do actual former participants say and what happened to them after they took the class? Most classes are just a waste of money, especially the expensive ones.
24. Pyramid Schemes
Pyramid schemes happen when a business (or scam) recruits members on the basis that they will make money if they can recruit others. Technically they’re illegal in the United States, though there are plenty of direct sales and multi-level marketing companies that are eerily similar. You’ll become a “consultant” for their products and earn a small commission on what people you recruit sell. Because of how oversaturated the markets for these products are, it’s nearly impossible to recoup your expenses or to make sales. If approached by a direct sales “opportunity” that seems too good to be true, avoid it because it isn’t true.
23. Too Many Little Expenses
Ten dollars may sound like a great deal when it comes to a monthly gym membership or a subscription to streaming music and TV services. In fact, replacing your regular cable bill with a Hulu or SlingTV subscription will save you a substantial amount of money each month. However, if you sign up for more than one of these services, the costs associated with them will continue to add up. For example, having Directv Now, Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, and a YouFit membership will set you back more than $100 a month, depending upon what level of service you select at sign up.
22. 4. Moving into a Better Apartment
In some ways, you look forward to getting a raise at work because you’ll have more money to pay for a better apartment. It can be tempting to get an apartment with more closet space, an extra bedroom, or beautiful hardwood floors. Some people even considering upgrading to a better apartment a way of moving up in the world, until they can buy a condo or a house. However, if your ultimate plan is to buy real estate, you should try to stay in your current apartment, even if it’s smaller, so you can save the extra money you would have put toward a nicer apartment toward your down payment.
21. Bad Partnerships
We love spending time with friends and family members, so it seems natural to start a new endeavor with people we already love and respect. Unfortunately, because we love these people, we can’t see their faults as clearly as we do with strangers we have to evaluate on past performance and merit. It’s a terrible idea to get involved in a bad partnership for a new endeavor. For instance, you start a soap company with an unemployed cousin who you feel got a bad break only to find out that your cousin is extremely lazy. This will only lead to frustration.
20. Keeping up with the Joneses
If everyone has an iPhone 7 already, you may want to spend the money to replace your iPhone 5. As humans, we naturally want what other people have. We want to feel that we have the same things and opportunities as the people we surround ourselves with. However, we don’t really know about our friends and neighbors’ financial situations. Maybe their purchases put them into extreme debt or they make a ton more money than you do. Make financial decisions based on your actual needs and not what other people around you do. You’ll experience better financial stability this way.
19. Not Reviewing Finances Often Enough
How often do you log in to your bank account to review how much money you’ve spent on what? Odds are good that you’re overspending on discretionary items like clothing or eating out. Many people spend beyond their means and don’t even realize it. As a result, they put off looking at their bank accounts in hopes that somehow what they don’t see won’t hurt them. You can’t become better off financially without really looking at your bank account. Make it a daily ritual to see what you’ve spent and if the transactions are correct. Even if you only detect a fraudulent transaction you can dispute, it’s worth it.
18. Putting Off Expenses and Deductions Until Tax Time
Depending on your financial situation, there are probably expenses that you can deduct when it comes to tax time. Students can deduct the cost of classes and school materials, as well as apply for tax credits that apply for education. Small business owners can write off many things, including the mileage and any expenses that they incur operating their business. Even people who are not students or small business owners can benefit, especially if they own a home or have high medical expenses. If you wait until April to gather this information, you’ll likely forget about relevant expenses. Make a commitment to record expenses as they come up.
17. Paying Service Providers for Things That You Can Do Yourself
It’s much nicer to pay someone or a company to tackle chores and tasks that you don’t want to do. For instance, hiring a house cleaner, paying for someone to wash your car, or investing in an accountant to file simple tax returns are wastes of money when you can accomplish all of these tasks for yourself. Look through your list of monthly expenses to see what tasks you can take back to be more in control of your spending. You should find at least a handful of expenses that you can skip to keep more money in your bank account.
16. Buying Awards and Recognition
We all like to be recognized for our contributions and be able to show off our accomplishments to others. There are some ways that you can pay for this recognition as a result. For example, Whos Who is a publication that publishes lists of reference publications that list out “Who is Who” among different groups, such as American high school students. The problem is that the people who are included pay for the honor. If payment is the only reason that you’re included, it doesn’t bear the same weight an independent publication does. Consider the high costs of BBB accreditation, for instance. When customers realize that you can just pay for it, it doesn’t mean much.
15. Life Coaches and Consultants
It’s tempting to get a life coach or a consultant to help get your life, finances, or business back on track. They might know some secret or give you the motivation you need to reach the next goal on your bucket list. While there are some instances where hiring a consultant is a sound investment (say your business is losing money and you suspect employee theft), most life coaches and consultants rarely are worth what they charge. If they were so great at doing what they say, why are they coaching instead? After all, those who can’t “teach” instead of doing it themselves.
14. Living Paycheck-to-paycheck
Many Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, spending all of the money that they earn close to pay day and then waiting for their next paycheck to spend more money. Instead, you should be saving money and keeping money in your bank account to pay for upcoming bills. This way, you won’t have to wait for your next paycheck to pay for things. To accomplish this, you need to spend less money that you earn, find new ways to save, and consistently put money in your bank account. If none of this seems plausible, you may need to find a higher paying job.
13. Buying Expensive Clothes to Look the Part
There’s an old saying that says that you should fake it until you make it. Unfortunately, that’s not always the best solution. Some people will buy expensive clothes, a luxury car, or a big home to give off the impression that they are well off even if they’re not. This is a waste of money that most people would be better off avoiding. It may help give off a successful impression, but it might turn off people or companies that want to work with you. For instance, if you wear Gucci shoes and carry a Coach purse to meet a client, they may give the work to someone else because they figure you must overcharge to afford such a lifestyle.
12. Taking Out Small Business Loans
If you’ve been in business for more than two years (or are starting a business for the first time), you’ll get offers to take out a small business loan. Getting immediate working capital may empower your business to get ahead even quicker, you’ll rationalize. Only, this is debt that you must pay back. It may take you years to pay off the debt. You’d be better off working your way up and saving money to invest in your business without having to take out the loan. It will take longer, but you’ll keep your fledgling company’s finances in the black.
11. Leasing Out an Office
Executive suites and small offices are available to rent, usually on month-to-month or one year leases. In some cases in more traditional office buildings, landlords expect new businesses to commit to 3 to 5 year terms. While having your own office will definitely feel like success, you’ll be forced to pay a large sum each month to your landlord, even if your business isn’t doing well. Most businesses can operate online, use public meeting spaces, co-work, share an office with another business, or take advantage of other opportunities to remove this monthly expense from their budget until they absolutely must rent an office.
Anybody who has ever watched Shark Tank may think that wealthy investors are the answer to all small business prayers. Unfortunately, most businesses are not large enough or ready to take on investors who will maintain control over your business’s operations. Often businesses don’t generate enough money to satisfy everyone. What might have worked for a small business fails when applied to a larger and/or growing business with investors. In a worst case scenario, investors with a majority stake may decide to close the business because it isn’t profitable enough or the original founder may have to pay the investors to go away.
9. Thinking Bigger Companies are Better
Speaking of large companies, many people make the mistake of thinking that larger companies are always better and more profitable than smaller ones. This isn’t always the case. For small business owners, growing the business to a substantial size may just be more work for the owner and may not net more money than the smaller business because of increased expense loads. For job seekers looking for their next position, it might seem to make sense to target large corporations with bigger budgets for salaries and benefits. However, more growth may actually be available at a smaller company who has more of an incentive to reduce employee turnover.
8. Using Money to Make Money
There’s a story about two beggars on the street. Both men get $5. One goes and buys lunch for himself and eats it. The other, an entrepreneur if you will, goes to buy a case of 24 water bottles that he sells on the street for $1 a piece. The second used his $5 to make $24 with insight, patience, and foresight. Unfortunately, most of the time, investing money to make more money doesn’t work unless there’s a well-crafted plan. If you stumble upon professional DJ equipment at a pawn shop, buying it won’t generate money unless you’re willing to market yourself and work as a DJ. The money itself isn’t what brings in more money.
7. Overinvesting in A Business Idea
If you’re starting or want to start a business, you’re probably pretty excited about it. You’ll throw whatever hard earned money you have at the idea to make sure that it works. After all, if you don’t spend money on your business, who will? Except that sometimes your business doesn’t need more money. Maybe it needs something else or is just a terrible idea that doesn’t have a place in the market. If this is the case, the outlook of a business won’t change no matter how much money you waste trying to make it work. (Think socks for kittens and bringing back Blockbuster Video).
6. Having Only One Bank Account
Many people only have one bank account that they use to deposit all of their earnings into and pay all of their bills with. There are a few disadvantages of this. First, it’s not a great way to save money toward other things. If you open a separate savings or checking account, you’ll be able to put money each month toward these other goals. Second, if you’re starting a business to grow financially, then you’ll have to separate your business’s earnings from what you’re spending. This is better for IRS audits and for deductions you can take around tax time.
5. Splurging on Sales
Finding weekly sales at supermarkets and retail stores could save you a lot of money in the long run. However, there are a few caveats to this advice. You need to make sure the item you’re purchasing is actually on sale at a great price. For regular purchases you make, such as toilet paper, watch the prices over a few months to learn more about its regular sales cycle. This way you’ll know what the best price is for that item. Also, make sure you don’t buy more of something (or worse, something you don’t even need) just because it is on sale, as doing this may negate any actual savings.
4. Not Redeeming Rewards
Reward cards can be bad for your wallet if you shop more somewhere simply because after ten purchases, you’ll earn a discount or a free item. However, for places you shop at anyway, make sure to take advantage of any loyalty programs that are available. It’s too easy to let that free drink from Starbucks go to waste. But if you’re a frequent face at Starbucks (which is perhaps a waste of money anyway), you need to take advantage of those free drinks that they offer. The same is true for grocery stores and pharmacies, like CVS, that give you points back on purchases.
3. Not Saving for Rainy Days
Unfortunately, bad things are going to happen to you no matter how well you plan to avoid them. Your tire will go flat and your home’s roof may need replacing. Instead of financing these expenses on your credit card or a small personal loan, you should save for them because you know that something will happen, even if it’s not what you expect. One of the biggest traps people fall into is not saving for these rainy days because they feel that it won’t happen. It seems that bad things only happen when you haven’t saved to get out of them. Do yourself a favor and invest in fixing your own bad days.
2. Doing Everything Yourself
As much as you shouldn’t pay for services that you’re more than capable of doing yourself, there are times that doing everything yourself is a financial pitfall that you should avoid. For instance, if you’re trying to develop a website to showcase a portfolio of photographs or to show off what your business can do. You could waste an inordinate amount of time trying to teach yourself how to do it or you could just hire someone. Sometimes time is money and wasting huge amounts of time is also a financial trap that you can avoid by hiring the right person for the job.
1. Not Saving for Retirement
Do you know when you should realistically start saving for retirement? Probably at age 20. With the very real chance that social security and Medicare programs will disappear in the future due to lack of funding and an aging population, it’s more important than ever to start saving for retirement. The earlier you start saving, the better off you’ll be financially when you do retire, as you’ll have more money and the money will have ample time to grow. Aim to save 10% of your annual earnings to put toward retirement starting today, even if you are working at your first real job.
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