10 Money Decisions You’ll Instantly Regret

Avoid these financial mistakes for a better future.

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Updated July 18, 2024
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Taking a look at the major things that affect your bank account — from budgeting to getting a mortgage to retirement savings — is an important part of evaluating your financial fitness.

And in order to stay ahead financially, there are some common missteps you’ll want to avoid. As you think about your next money moves, here are a few decisions you might regret. 

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Forgetting your emergency fund

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You might already be great at budgeting for monthly costs, but what happens when an emergency car repair or a trip to the hospital throws your finances off balance? 

That’s when it’s good to have an emergency fund to cover any costs, and you’ll likely regret not having one in place if surprise bills show up and you need the funds.

Sit down with your budget and calculate about three to six months of your costs for things like groceries, bills, and your mortgage. Then start setting aside some extra cash each month in one of the top high-yield savings accounts.

Taking on a big mortgage

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As you go through the approval process to get a mortgage, carefully review your monthly payments, factoring in all your other monthly costs. Property taxes, utilities, insurance, and any home repairs add up. If your mortgage itself is already high, your regret might be as well.

Not saving for retirement

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Compounding interest, which is interest you earn that is reinvested in your account, can add up, especially if you start saving early in your career. 

Because of that, you may be cursing your younger self for not investing money sooner when you get to your target retirement age and don’t have enough to retire.

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Borrowing from your retirement

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If you need a short-term loan and will replenish the money in a relatively quick timeframe, borrowing from your retirement might not be the worst idea. But you may regret it when the bill comes and you’re not prepared.

If you don’t have money to put back in the account on schedule, you could incur penalties or taxes on the money you pulled out.

Buying an expensive car

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A new car may be good to drive or take your friends around town, but you may be thinking differently when that first month’s payment is due.

Instead, think about trying to find a more affordable car that’s safe but can still get you to where you need to go. You also may want to shop around for a loan before going to the dealership. 

A bank or credit union may be able to get you a better deal on a loan compared to if you use the dealer’s financing.

Not saving for your kids’ college

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College is expensive, and kids grow up fast. If you haven’t saved for their education, you may regret the giant bill when it comes time to send them to school.

Tuition costs may cause you to take money out of your retirement or add it to your monthly budget. Or your children may have to take out student loans with high interest rates to pay for their education.

Carrying a credit card balance

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Credit cards may have a high annual percentage rate (APR). That means you could be paying a double-digit interest rate on your credit card debt. Letting that debt linger or only paying the minimum every month could mean you’ll have to pay more in interest on those charges later.

Investing without investigating

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There's been plenty of social media buzz in the past year about “meme stocks,” which are stocks that may be hyped for being cool or trendy instead of financially sound. Stocks such as retailer GameStop and entertainment company AMC were both deemed to be meme stocks in the past year, for example.

Investing in a stock just because it’s trendy may not be a sound investment strategy. Instead of jumping into trendy stocks, it may be better to do some research on more reliable investments that may best suit your particular needs.

Buying stuff, not experiences

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Does your budget get spent on too much stuff? If you are allocating funds to things over experiences, you might regret that move. Instead, why not spend money on experiential purchases instead of material ones? 

Experiences like visiting family you haven’t seen in a while or putting money toward a vacation with your loved ones could create memories that last much longer than physical items.

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Not having a budget

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Sitting down to plan out a budget may be one of the most important steps you can make to have a secure financial future. 

Without a budget, you might not have rules about where to best allocate your income or boundaries on spending. That could be a problem when you get to the end of the month with bills due or when you get to the end of your career and don’t have a retirement fund.

Pro tip: There are many expert budgeting tips, including ways to track your expenses and stretch your paycheck limits.

Bottom line

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It may be daunting to think about all the potential places that you could go wrong with your money decisions. But start with your spending habits. 

Take a look at your higher expenses, then consider your everyday spending and fine-tune where that money is going. You may find that changes — even small ones — could allow you to get ahead financially.

Having an awareness of how you could get into debt may help to set you on the right financial path. The goal is no regrets.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.