Looking back over the past 5.5 years since I graduated college, I’ve made some good… and some bad money moves. In line of trying to figure out what wisdom I have to impart via this blog on personal finance and related, I’ve made a list I thought I’d share of the top 10 smart money moves I’ve made, and 10 things I need to improve on. First, the list of 10 of my work money moves…
1) My food spend is WAY too high!
I spend too much money on food each month, and I don’t even eat that well. I skip meals all the time and end up so hungry I overspend at restaurants.
GOAL: Spend less than $200 a month on food
2) I splurge when I’m shopping.
While I’ve been pretty good lately at avoiding the mall, I still have enough times over the year when I went to the mall, or even an outlet store, and spent $200 to $1000 in one visit, often on items that I wore a couple of times.
GOAL: Make an annual budget for clothes and stick to it!
3) Wasting my gym membership.
I’m paying $35 a month and… haven’t been to the gym in a year. Yes, I want to work out and be healthy, but I hate the gym and when I do work out I like to do so outside or with an exercise video at home, not at the gym.
GOAL: Either use gym 2 times a week minimum, or cancel my gym membership May 1.
4) I should spending MORE on seeing family and friends back east.
This is actually a place I’m saving money, because I go back to NJ (where my family is) from California about two times a year. The flight isn’t exactly cheap. But life is short, and I miss my family. The older I get, the sadder I feel missing the holidays and family get togethers. Plus, my father is ill with terminal cancer, and while we aren’t exactly best friends, I know I’m going to regret the infrequent visits. I think it’s worth spending $300-$400 every 3 months to take a trip home, even for a weekend, to see my family and friends at home.
GOAL: budget more frequent trips home and see if boss will let me work from east coast for one week a quarter (he already agreed to this, but I haven’t pursued it yet.)
5) I’ve Treated my car poorly.
Five years ago, I bought my ’99 Toyota Solara with 130k miles on it for $7k. Granted, it’s lated 5 years, so that’s not too bad. But along the way the car has collected quite a few dings, and most recently, had half of the front bumper ripped off in an accident that was not my fault, but also was not provably the other person’s fault. I haven’t brought the car in for super regular oil changes, and while it hasn’t had a lot of problems I can definitely feel it’s getting to the end of it’s life. It now has 182k miles on it, but if I treated the car better I probably could have gotten to 250k miles… now it feels like it’s going to die at 200.
GOAL: If / when I buy a new car, be sure to take better care of it, to get the longest life out of the car.
6) Spending too much on investing fees
The way I invest is pretty stupid, but I forgive myself because if I wasn’t investing the money I’d be spending it on #2 (shopping splurges.) My worst offense is my Sharebuilder account, which I pay $12 a month for to get 12 free automatic trades, and I often pay extra on that because I put smaller amounts into stocks each week. It’s kind of dollar-cost averaging but I do it wrong so it’s more or less stupid. My Sharebuilder account is up 10% right now, which is ok, but I could be up 10% investing in a mutual fund this year or one ETF this year, with lower fees.
GOAL: Pay attention to (and account for) how much money I’m spending on my stock transactions!
7) Outgrowing my clothes (due to #3.)
My weight is all over the place, and this requires me to go to the mall often which results in #2.
GOAL: Use #3 to Solve This Problem
8) Not cooking / packing lunch for work.
I spend too much money eating out (#1) because I rarely cook.
GOAL: find low-cost, easy-to-make meals for my bachelorette self.
9) Getting my hair cut twice a year… is not enough
Why is this in my “poor money choices” section? Because after a few months, my hair gets kind of gnarly. While I could get away with that in college, I’m now in a director-level role and need to maintain myself, and my hair.
GOAL: Get my hair cut every 3 months, not every 6 months.
10) Paying things late.
I’m the worst offender here. I tend to pay my credit card bills on time, but I’ve missed a few there too. Like the one $10 account balance that ended up costing me $50 in late fees. Then there’s the late parking tickets, which add up fast.
GOAL: pay all bills on time, right when I get them.
What are your Top 10 Worst Money Moves, and what goals can you set to improve these in 2011?