My Top Ten Foolish Money Choices
Since today is April Fool’s Day, I thought it would be fun to share with you some of my more foolish money choices. As I have mentioned on the blog, I didn’t always make smart money choices, in fact, I spent many years making consistently poor money choices. I was fortunate to have an income that covered up many of these poor choices, but it still hurts to look at these and think what my net worth could have looked like if I wasn’t so foolish. However, like I say to my clients, these things are in the past and all you can focus on is the future. I may stumble here and there now, but I know I would never do these things again.
1) Taking from my retirement to pay for the down payment on my home
Three years ago we purchased the home we live in and because of a number of unexpected closing costs and other home related expenses, I took more than the $10,000 allowable for first time home expenses from my IRA. So, I not only had the pain of paying a 10% tax penalty for the early withdrawal, but I also had the pain of paying taxes on the amount withdrawn as income when I filed my taxes. I still cringe when I think about this. The only good news is that at least my money went into another form of equity and my home has appreciated in value since we purchased it.
2) Buying a new car when we had one paid off
Right after we got married, my hubby officially paid off his Mustang convertible. It was a nice car and my hubby’s dream car that he loved to drive, especially when we lived in Florida. Instead of living for years without a car payment, though, we decided we needed to keep up with the Joneses and buy a BMW convertible. It was not only a poor financial move, but we had more problems with the BMW (including the top malfunctioning during a rainstorm) than we ever had with the Mustang.
3) Buying a home we didn’t need
My hubby and I lived in a town home when we moved to Florida, and it was a lovely home with a small living area. Not long after moving in, we found out I was pregnant, so we decided we needed more space and ended up selling the town home to build a larger home. The crazy part about all of this is that Will did not need that much room and we could have easily stayed in the town home for years and saved ourselves time and money. I hate seeing clients make home decisions over a little baby. They really don’t need that much space and the longer you can avoid spending more money, the better.
4) Putting hardwoods in an office space
The same town home I mentioned above had three bedrooms, and we used one of them as a home office. For some strange reason, we convinced ourselves that the home office should have hardwood floors even though it had very lovely carpeting in it. I recently found the receipt for those hardwoods and that stupid decision cost us $1,100.
5) Buying lunch instead of bringing it from home
Until two years ago, I rarely brought my lunch from home, and I always purchased it out. Yes, every now and then I entertained clients so I could expense my lunches, but for the most part, they were on me. If I had to come up with a ballpark figure of the amount of money I wasted buying versus bringing lunch over 13 years, I would say it was over $15,000.
6) My Starbucks habit
Over the last 15 years, there have been periods of time where I was a daily Starbucks indulger; however, for the most part I certainly indulged on average 2-3 times per week. Assuming $15 per week over this time, it’s about $11,000 wasted.
7) Year end spending based on bonus anticipation
When I worked in investment banking, we typically received a year end bonus in February that represented a significant part of our compensation. Because this was a traditional practice, for years, I would run up my credit cards in December and January in anticipation of these bonuses. I never thought anything of it, until the one year the bonus was significantly less than it should have been. It was a difficult lesson to learn.
8) Our trip to Disney
My son was a thumb sucker from the moment he had a thumb (I have ultrasound proof), so when he was four, we promised him that if he stopped sucking his thumb when he turned five, that we would take him to Disney World. Miraculously, he stopped sucking his thumb on his fifth birthday and never looked back. Rather than plan a cost effective and time efficient trip to Disney, I planned one without a care in the world.
We stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge and had a room on the Savannah. We had all of the high end packages, my son was dressed as a pirate, Sven Cabin Stealer, from head to toe and we spent way too much money on ornaments and gifts in Downtown Disney. I think the final bill for that trip was somewhere around $6,000, and my son’s favorite part was the pool at the hotel.
9) Buying furniture full price from Crate and Barrel
Seven years ago when we moved from Florida to New York, we sold most of our furniture and planned to replace it when we were in New York. Since we were living in a smaller space, we knew we needed a sleeper sofa and wanted to make sure we had a comfortable one.
Rather than price shop and compare, we hit the Crate and Barrel at the mall and spent $2,500 for one of the most uncomfortable sofas I have ever owned. A few years ago when we moved to our new home, we purchased furniture for our living room and found a sofa, chair and loveseat for $700, and it is WAY more comfortable than that other sofa.
10) Buying name brand clothes for full price
I used to think that TJ Maxx or Marshall’s was a waste of time because you had to sift through racks of stuff to find what you wanted. Rather than be inconvenienced like this, I almost exclusively shopped at Ann Taylor or Banana Republic because I knew what sizes worked for me, and I rarely ever used a coupon. I remember spending $350 at Ann Taylor on essentially one suit and a top for an interview I had, and a few years ago I spent $350 at TJ Maxx and purchased a new wardrobe.
Well, I hope you read this and feel better about your money choices. I think the good news in this is that I have completely changed my foolish ways, and I always tell clients that if I could do it, so can they. It’s not an overnight process, but with time and energy, foolish money choices can and will become a thing of the past.
Gif Source: Giphy