I consider myself somewhat of a personal finance nerd, even a snob. I’ve written about money for a year on the blog, I’ve worked in the financial education field for four years and I’m a huge anti-student debt advocate, both personally and professionally.
But even someone like me – someone who makes her living teaching others about money – is prone to money mistakes.
And holy cow, have I made a few big ones over the last few weeks.
1. I overdrew my checking account. Twice. (-$70)
This has got to feel like the dumbest mistake I’ve ever made. There I was, cruising along the Road to Debt Freedom, and less than $1,000 away from paying off all of my student loan debt once and for all. I decided to help accelerate my journey and make an extra $120 payment toward my student loans that month.
So, I logged into my student loan account and added a one-time payment of $120. Or so I thought.
Turns out that I only thought I’d typed in $120 -I’d actually authorized a withdrawal for $1,200. My checking account was only overdrawn by a few dollars, but it was enough to trigger a $35 overdraft fee. What made matters worse is that I forgot about a bill payment that was hitting that same day (curse you, Netflix!). So while my account was at a negative balance, I got hit with a second overdraft fee.
2. I forgot to put my new credit card on automatic bill pay. (-$15)
I’d opened up a American Express Starwoods Preferred Guest Business Card in August and had already charged a few hundred dollars to it. Even though I compulsively check Mint.com for any fees or suspicious spending activity on my cards, I don’t regularly log into my credit card accounts and manually pay my bills. That’s what automatic bill pay is for!
Well, in theory that’s what automatic bill pay is for… except if you forget to set it up. I missed my first payment on my credit card and was hit with a $15 late fee. Luckily, I was able to call Amex and ask for them to kindly remove the fee (and I crossed my heart that it would never happen again!)
3. I bought a shirt that I absolutely hate and can’t return. (-$22)
Why did I buy it in the first place, you might ask? Good question. I’ll blame it on emotions, impulse and the overwhelming pressure of a one-day sale gleaming out the window of a store I walk by everyday. Regardless, I bought this shirt, took all the tags off, wore it for a day and realized how much I absolutely despised it. The fabric, the color, the fit – none of it worked. Even though I wasn’t able to return it, I brought it into my favorite local consignment store and got an $8 credit for my $30 shirt. Not a complete loss!
After I got over my initial shock and anger of allowing myself to make such dumb errors, I paused, took a deep breath and I realized it was actually okay. Everyone makes mistakes, especially with money. And it’s certainly not the end of the world if those small errors cost me a little money (and I was able to get some of that money back, eventually).
I wanted to share my blunders for a few reasons:
1) Remember to be gentle with yourself. I felt like I should’ve known better. I felt stupid. I felt like I never should have made any of those mistakes in the first place. Not only was it not a big deal (it’s just money, after all), but I was also being overly critical with myself. I often forget to be gentle with myself – especially when it comes to something like my finances, where I feel like such a perfectionist.
2) Don’t judge other people’s lives online. Even though I’m on my way to becoming debt free or I seem laser-focused with my spending, sometimes I just don’t have my sh*t together. I posted about this a few weeks ago, but it’s worth a reminder again: don’t judge other people’s lives when you don’t know all the details, especially online. More often than not, your friends will post about the positive and good going on in their lives. You see tons of Facebook pictures of smiling couples … and you’ll notice how few (if any) photos you see of arguments or the less-than-pleasant moments. It’s not worth comparing the intimate details of your life with someone else’s superficial representation.
So feel free to make a few mistakes – just make sure you’ve learned a lesson from it 🙂
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