This article was written and originally posted by The Financial Diet in partnership with M&T Bank.
We’re sharing our own worst money mistakes of the year in the hopes of helping you (and ourselves) avoid making them in the future.
By The Financial Diet
December 30, 2019
If you, like us here are TFD, are a human being living in society, it is essentially impossible to avoid making money mistakes. No matter how much better you are with your money compared to 18-year-old you, there will always be complications that throw a wrench into our best-laid budget plans — flat tires, medical emergencies, family needs, and, yes, spontaneous 4-hour brunches.
Luckily, mistakes can serve an extremely useful purpose: to help us plan better for next time. We’re not interested in telling you how to live a life where you don’t make money mistakes, because that would involve taking no risks and doing absolutely nothing fun. Your money is supposed to help you live the life you actually want. And while that life does, in fact, involve forgoing some instant gratification in order to take care of future you, it definitely doesn’t involve spending only the bare minimum you need to in order to survive — or thinking that once you get good with money, you’ll never make a mistake again. That’s not a healthy mindset to have; it’s much better to know how to handle mistakes when they do occur.
We here at TFD certainly aren’t immune to making mistakes with our money — but we’re also committed to getting better with it every day. We’re sharing our own worst money mistakes of the year in the hopes of helping you (and ourselves) avoid making them in the future. And, because we love a little Machiavellian inter-team drama, we’ve decided to rank them. Here’s what we each had to say!
5. “Two financial mistakes jump out at me when I think back on this year. The first was fairly small — I failed to keep a close enough eye on my business account a few different months and let it dip below the minimum balance required to avoid a hefty monthly management fee. A big deal it was not, but there’s just something so angering about fees that could have easily been avoided.” – Annie, COO & Publisher
As a business owner, having a check that you’ve written returned can have lasting repercussions — especially if you’ve issued it to a vendor you rely on regularly. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid coming up short. Here are a few ongoing account-maintenance tactics to consider for defending against overdrawing your account and managing your cash flow:
- Record transactions in your register or ledger to avoid unwelcome surprises.
- Check your account online by viewing pending transactions that haven’t yet posted, so you can transfer funds or make a deposit to potentially avoid an overdraft.
- Ask your bank about the typical clearing times of any checks you deposit, as they can vary widely.
- Learn the basics of transaction postings — either real-time (same day) or end-of-business-day batch postings. This is important because if you’re counting on the funds from a recent deposit to keep you afloat, but it’s part of an end-of-day batch of posts, you might get caught short.
- Gain an extra measure of protection by linking your checking account to a savings account, credit card, or line of credit so backup funds will bridge the gap.
- Talk to a business banking specialist today at 1-800-724-6070 or visit mtb.com.
4. “When it comes to money mistakes, food is always at the top of my list. Even when our kitchen is stocked with groceries, I am still tempted to order in or want to go out to eat because it’s easier. I am also terrible at bringing lunch to work. Any leftover we have usually go to my husband because he simply enjoys them more. But when I went through my checking account at the end of the summer and wrote out how much I spent on food over the three previous months, I was mortified. I have since gotten a lot better about not ordering in as often, but I still need to make some progress in the lunch department.” – Rachel, Social Media Manager
3. “My second big mistake was more nuanced and significantly more consequential than my first: letting money become a stressful subject. It was the first time that a lot of my biggest financial decisions in both life and work had to be made in cooperation with other people (a wedding, a move, hiring staff, financing a business, among other things), and could not have predicted how much mental turmoil it caused me. I think the biggest learnings from these experiences were to be quicker to seek professional help with these decisions when needed, and to over-communicate with other stakeholders so there’s no doubt we’re on the same page.” – Annie, COO & Publisher
2. “My worst money mistake this year was consistently overpacking for trips. Joe and I moved to Dublin, Ireland for a year, which has meant A LOT of flying. Not only have we been going on trips of our own, but we’ve flown back to the states for weddings a few times. I always thought I was a good packer, but the anxiety of being back home for a week here and there meant I was taking way too many items back with me. (It was ‘crucial’ that I have options for clothes, depending on my mood.) This resulted in us coughing up nearly €40 (each way!) every time we flew, so I could bring home extra stuff I never even wore. Such a waste of good $$$.” – Lauren, Designer & Co-Founder
1. “My worst money mistake this year was not planning ahead for holiday-related travel. We were so on top of all the saving that we had to do for our wedding that everything else pretty much fell by the wayside…and we waited too long to get plane tickets for Thanksgiving/Christmas and ended up spending about $600 more than we’d anticipated, and we had to pull from our savings to cover this spending. Thankfully, we’re lucky enough income-wise that we made it work. But we had the MOST detailed savings spreadsheet and general plan for saving for the wedding — we could have included things like holiday travel ahead of time and had more of a plan in place for them.” – Holly, Head of Content
Our team at M&T can help ensure that your checking account transactions are covered by linking your account to your preferred funding source.
With an overdraft protection plan, available funds from your M&T Overdraft Line of Credit, Savings Account or Credit Card are automatically transferred to your checking account in the event you don’t have sufficient available funds in the checking account to cover an item. Our overdraft protection plans provide flexibility in case funds are not readily available in your checking account to do a withdrawal or make a payment.
To learn more about how M&T can help you reach your savings goals, visit a branch near you.
Like this story? Follow The Financial Diet on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for daily tips and inspiration, and sign up for our email newsletter here.