So, we’ve made it to the real world now. We’re adults! With paychecks and everything! We totally know what we’re doing, right? We’ve definitely got this . . . But chances are, we’re probably slacking a bit in the budget department. In fact, I can almost guarantee that we’re all making at least one of these six monthly budget mistakes that are costing us serious bank.
Finances are hard. Seriously! I know I was lucky enough to not have to worry too much about my necessities when I was still in college (thanks Mom and Dad!) so getting a full-time paycheck was definitely a reality check for me. While I may have stayed on top of my budgeting when I first started, as costs gradually piled up I gradually let my finances fall off my priority list. And I can tell you, I’ve made all of these monthly budget mistakes at one time or another. And I may or may not be making one or two of them now . . . but hey, wouldn’t you rather hear from someone who has experience?
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The Monthly Budget Mistakes You’re Probably Making that Really Hurt Your Finances
You pay too much in rent and utilities.
I know I’m not the only one to fall into this trap. You think, “I really love this apartment that’s kinda expensive so I’m going to get it and just save money elsewhere!” Sound familiar? I know I thought it plenty of times when I went on the hunt for an apartment for me and my boyfriend. Ya girl has a thing for hardwood floors and granite countertops.
But what’s the likelihood that you’ll actually spend frugally elsewhere to justify your monthly rent? Slim to none. Rent can be deceiving because it’s so regular: it stays the same month to month, which means you can’t adjust it when times get tough. Unless you’re Elon Musk you should always consider apartments for rent at the lower end of your price range first so you don’t make an impulse decision that hurts you later! Be smart. This is one of those monthly budget mistakes that you can’t just fix right away. After all, you can’t change your lease mid year.
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Another thing to consider? You should never pay more than 1/3 of your monthly income towards rent and utilities combined. Yup! It’s that simple! 1/3 is considered the sweet spot, because these expenses are (obviously) necessary, but shouldn’t be where the majority of your money goes each month in case your financial situation suddenly takes a turn for the worse.
The good news is that you have much more control over your utility bills each month than you do over your rent! Both water and electricity are based off of usage, not a flat fee, so if you play your cards right you can save yourself a lot of money by being frugal. So turn off your A/C when you leave the house and time yourself when you’re in the shower, your wallet will thank you!Never allocate more than 1/3 of your monthly income to rent + utilities if your area allows it. You don't want the majority of your income to go to fixed expenses in case your financial situation drastically changes! Click To Tweet
You don’t contribute to your savings account before you spend.
So, hopefully you have a savings account. I’m going to assume that that is a given because, you know, everyone should have one! If you don’t have one? Well, get on it. Stat.
You need to have a savings account so that you have a place to start saving your money long-term, where you won’t be tempted to just spend it. That’s why it’s so important not to just use your checking account! Savings accounts are designed to work more strictly; meaning, you have a limited amount of transfers out of your savings account that you can make each month before paying a fee. It makes it much less desirable to take money out once you’ve put it in!
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But here’s the thing: if you’re not putting money into your savings account before you’ve spent your paycheck, you’re doing yourself a disservice. We’ve all said “I’ll put everything I don’t spend into my savings at the end of the month!” but how often do we actually do that? More than likely, we’re committing a major monthly budget mistake because that number is almost always less than we want it to be. You should always prioritize putting a set amount of money to the side as soon as your paycheck hits your account.
So if you don’t contribute to your savings account each month before you start spending? Yeah, that’s one of the major monthly budget mistakes that you don’t want to commit. Make sure moving money into your savings account is your first priority when you get your paycheck. And if you have money left over at the end of the month? Go ahead and put that into your savings too!
You use a debit card to pay for expenses instead of a credit card.
It may seem all around safer to pay for everything with your debit card — money you actually own — instead of a credit card. In fact, in regards to avoiding debt, you’re probably not wrong! But safety aside, this is one of the easiest monthly budget mistakes to avoid, and also one of the most important.
Using a credit card builds credit, plain and simple. What does this mean? Well, credit — or your credit score — is what companies use to decide how trustworthy you are to lend money to when you need it. Everyone starts out with a credit score of zero (out of 900!) until you start building credit, which is why you should start sooner rather than later! You want to have a long, stellar credit history by the time you apply for a home loan so that your interest rates aren’t sky high.
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The other great thing about credit cards? These things called rewards! They’re the best!! Essentially, every time you use your credit card, you can earn points or cash back based on how much you spent and where. Once you’ve accrued enough points or cash back, you can redeem it for money off of your statement balance! Yep, that’s right, credit card companies will literally help you pay your monthly balance just for shopping with them.
What rewards you earn depends on what type of card you have, so you can choose a card that fits your lifestyle! I highly suggest getting a cash back card for everyday expenses, like groceries, gas, and restaurants, which payout higher for these type of (necessary) purchases. You can also open a card that will reward you for travel if that’s your jam, too!Don't miss out on the cash back and rewards points that you could be earning by only using your debit card. Start building credit and earning rewards on your everyday expenses with a credit card! Click To Tweet
You’re not getting cash back on your online purchases.
“What??” I can hear you gasping, “Cash back with my online purchases? How do I do that?” Well, my friend, it’s simple. And I’m sure you’ve heard of it, too!
Now, I want you to think back to when you would watch cable TV for hours on end and, ultimately, watch the same commercials over and over. How many times did you see that one commercial with a bunch of middle-aged adults doing poor readings off a teleprompter about how they were being paid to shop online?
Yep, I’m talking about that one Ebates commercial!
Long story short, if you’re not getting cash back on your purchases, you’re not shopping smart and you’re making one of probably many monthly budget mistakes. So make sure to sign up for your own Ebates account so you can start getting paid for shopping!
You don’t keep track of your monthly budget.
If you don’t keep track of what you spend each month then you’re literally shooting yourself in the foot. Seriously. This is one of the easiest monthly budget mistakes to correct, but hopefully most of you don’t have to correct it to begin with!
If you keep track of your monthly budget you can detect trends in your spending habits before they start to negatively affect you. Paying attention to your monthly spending can also help you live within your means and save some money to put towards future purchases!
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Think about it for a second. How would you know that you spend too much eating out each month if you didn’t track your spending? How would you know that cutting down on eating out could save you money towards your big road trip coming up? Or that your Amazon addiction has seriously started to affect your finances? It’s simple, you wouldn’t! It’s why avoiding these monthly budget mistakes is so important!
There are many apps out there that can track your spending automatically, such as Mint (my personal favorite) or Pluto. Using them is super easy, too: just connect your financial accounts, input your monthly budget for your spending areas, and go! The apps automatically updates every few hours so that you can stay on top of your spending. They’ll even send you push notifications if you go over-budget or if you’re close, which is incredibly user friendly!Not only is keeping track of your monthly budget financially responsible, it will also set you up for financial success in the future. Click To Tweet
You don’t contribute to your retirement fund.
“Now, Logan,” I can hear you asking, “How exactly is this one of the monthly budget mistakes we should be avoiding? Doesn’t not contributing to a retirement fund save us money?” Well, my friend, you’re not wrong. Not contributing to your retirement fund saves you money in the short term. But in the long term? Really, you’re just screwing yourself over.
Eventually, we all want to retire. I seriously doubt that anyone wants to work until the day that they die. But we still need money to live, money that we won’t make anymore without a job. So where do we get it? Ding ding ding! From our retirement funds, AKA the 401ks and Roth IRAs that we contribute to when we’re young!
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In reality, the sooner you start contributing to your retirement fund, the better. If you don’t currently take care of children or relatives, split your income with a spouse, or have any other financial burdens, then you should contribute some of your expendable income to your retirement while you have it.
Retirement funds work similar to stock portfolios; in fact, they basically are stock portfolios. The money you contribute gets invested on your behalf so that it can grow instead of sitting there depreciating. So make sure you don’t commit this money faux pas and invest in your future each time you receive your paycheck! Your old age self will thank you.
What monthly budget mistakes have you made in the past? Let me know in the comments below!!