According to Meriam-Webster, a pitfall is “a flimsily covered pit used to capture” or “a hidden or not easily recognized danger.” Therefore, pitfall can be both literal and figurative. It is this figurative sense that many people fall victim to when it comes to their personal finances.
Let’s take a look at some current trends that you should avoid altogether.
Not Adhering to a Budget
For some strange reason, not following a budget is seen as a measure of independent freedom. A paycheck gets deposited into a bank account, and the spending commences. Perhaps it’s the mindset of “spend now, figure everything else out later,” but it’s surprisingly gaining popularity. The idea of keeping a budget is seen as restrictive and cumbersome. So, why do it, right?
Avoid falling for this trick. Budgeting will not only allow you to pay your bills, but it will actually provide future financial freedom. Having the money to buy something you really want at any moment is the very definition of financial freedom.
Not Investing in an Emergency Fund
In an era of immediate gratification, saving money is the financial unicorn—it doesn’t exist. Why save money that you can only spend if something bad happens? Money is for pleasure and immediate necessities. But this mindset is very dangerous.
Murphy’s Law says that “if something can go wrong, it will.” Having an emergency fund can protect you from falling flat when your car breaks down, when you get injured, or when that bill you keep avoiding comes due. When an emergency happens, you’ll need to be able to address it quickly. Now that’s what you call immediate gratification.
Living Above Your Means
It’s perfectly okay to desire nice things, but it’s detrimental to actually have them when you can’t afford it. Buying a car, for example, that leaves you with a $500 monthly payment when you only net $15 an hour is not a wise decision. Yes, you may really want the car and you may even look awesome in it, but what’s the point if you can’t even afford a tank of gas to show it off?
Buy a car that is dependable and affordable. In the long run, this will allow you to save extra money to put toward your next vehicle. If you really plan it out, you may even be able to pay cash for it.
Using Loans to Pay for Education
Education is expensive and it’s not getting any cheaper. Rather than jumping straight to the loan route, look at alternative ways to receive an education. You may qualify for scholarships or grants that will help you pay for your school.
Look at attending community college for a year or two for a cheaper rate as you figure out your next steps. Sometimes student loans can’t be avoided, but looking for other ways to supplement the cost could come in handy. Just don’t look at student loans as your first and only option.
High Dependence on Credit Cards
Credit Cards are not free money. The power you feel as you swipe or insert your card may feel good for a moment, but when that bill comes in the mail, that feeling quickly dissipates. A credit card is not to be used as extra cash when you want to make an impulse transaction.
Allow yourself to only use a credit card when you know you have the means to pay it off during the next bill cycle. Instead, build up your savings account so you aren’t forced to use a credit card during an emergency. Going into debt when you don’t need to is never a good idea.
Pitfalls can often be seen when you take the time to look for them. Pause and think before making important financial decisions. Falling into a financial pitfall can break the bank and trap you indefinitely.