10 Financial Mistakes I Actually Haven’t Made

Until I decided to change my financial life in late 2010, the only thing I knew about money was how to spend it. This blog is full of stories about the dumb things I’ve done and how they’ve held me back from achieving stability. While I talk about my mistakes a lot (in hopes that you guys won’t repeat them), sometimes I forget to give myself credit for the things I’ve done right. Which, given my short time in recovery, is more like the things I haven’t managed to screw up yet.

Believe it or not, even someone who has experienced credit card debt, bankruptcy, divorce, single parenthood, payday loans, and a series of disastrous job situations can find some ways to feel better about her financial situation. Despite all my failures, there are still at least a few mistakes I haven’t made. Here are ten of them:

1. I have never stolen money. I’ll start with the most obvious. Even when I was desperate for money and couldn’t buy a gallon of milk without a credit card, it never crossed my mind to take money that didn’t belong to me. Sometimes people assume that those in debt lack morals or are more likely to steal, but not this girl! The only way I could see myself doing this is if my son was starving and there was no other way to feed him.

2. I have never spent money that belonged to my son. On a related note, I have never used money that belongs to my son, unless it was to buy something he truly needed (like clothing). He has more money in savings right now than I’ve ever had, and there’s no way I’d use it. I know people who use their kids’ Christmas and birthday money to buy things for themselves, and I’m pretty sure there’s a special place in hell for them.

3. I have never pawned something important. I hear stories all the time about people who pawn their grandmother’s jewelry or some other family heirloom in moments of desperation. While I’m not a stranger to pawn shops, I have been fortunate to stick to things I didn’t really need anyway, like movies, CDs, or unused electronics. I don’t own a ton of valuable items, but I’m determined to hold onto the ones I do have.

4. I have never borrowed money from a friend. I’m not talking about five bucks because I left my wallet in the car at lunch. One of the quickest ways to lose a friend is to borrow a large sum of money from them. The only non-business I’ve ever borrowed money from is my parents. Not saying that’s great; just giving myself credit where I can.

5. I have never borrowed money that I didn’t intend to pay back. A few years ago, one of my friends and her husband decided to file for bankruptcy. Before doing so, they took out several loans and maxed out all their credit cards “because it’s like getting free stuff!” Obviously since I filed bankruptcy myself, I haven’t always been able to pay back what I owed. But never because I purposely took money when I knew I couldn’t or wouldn’t pay as agreed.

6. I have never collected donations to keep for myself. That may sound odd, but apparently people do it all the time. Is there anything worse than taking up donations for your kid with cancer when you don’t even have a kid with cancer? I’m sure there are worse things, but I can’t think of many. Never been that stupid or desperate.

7. I have never invested money in a pyramid scheme. Remember those chain letters where you sent a dollar bill to each person on the list, and you were supposed to end up with hundreds of dollars? Yeah. I’ve done some really dumb things in my life, but somehow I was able to recognize the likelihood that I wouldn’t see a single dollar from that tactic. One time I almost fell for the one where you send recipes, until I remembered I don’t cook. Crisis averted!

8. I didn’t try to rip off my ex-husband when we got divorced. Many people feel the need to take every dime their spouse has in a divorce. My attorney actually encouraged me to take half of my ex’s retirement, which was fairly substantial, but I refused to stoop to that level. Since we have a child together, it was more important that we get along than for me to fill my bank account with money I didn’t earn.

9. I have never paid for a vacation with credit. Of course I also haven’t taken a real vacation since 2003. But that’s because I can’t afford it, and I refuse to pay interest on something that isn’t necessary. Don’t get me wrong - I’m always whining that I need Calgon to take me away. But it’ll have to wait until I have the money to pay for it.

10. I have never let money influence what I think or say. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of opinionated. But I’m proud to say that my opinions have never been altered just because someone waved money in my face. I won’t endorse crappy products, I won’t be “friends” with someone I dislike to gain something, and I won’t respect people with money if they do nothing to earn my respect.

Do You Acknowledge Your Successes?

Success is a relative term. I had to go to some interesting extremes to find 10 financial mistakes I haven’t made, but I’m pretty excited that I managed to do it. I could have made a list of the things I’ve done right, but I think it was more interesting to remind myself, “I might have screwed up, but at least I didn’t do ____.”

Do you get hung up on the money mistakes you’ve made, or are you able to pat yourself on the back for the areas where you excel? Are there mistakes you know you’ll never allow yourself to make?


10 Financial Mistakes I Actually Haven’t Made23 Comments

  1. Nice work! I've failed at numbers 3 & 4 when I was really struggling. The bad part about the loan was that it was from my girlfriend (wife now). I would have much rather have asked somebody else!!

  2. This is great! It's so easy to beat ourselves up about the things we do wrong. Thanks for encouraging us to celebrate our successes. I suddenly feel much better about myself! =)

  3. I'll admit it. I've done one of those. I'm not proud of it but I've done it. I paid for a vacation on a credit card.

    My cousin used money from her daughter's savings to by junk for her and her husband. It was as appaling then as it is now. Unless I am on the verge of starving or losing my house, I can't imagine ever using my kid's money.

  4. It's hard for me to focus on the positive sometimes, so this is a great post. Luckily I haven't made any of those mistakes and don't intend to.

  5. Ok so I win on all of these except #9. Some of them were gimmies though since I don’t have kids, have never been married and have never been in possession of a family heirloom. I’ll take all the freebies I can get though.

  6. I'm so glad you wrote this. My husband and I are currently facing a freaking MOUNTAIN of student debt and we're feeling like pretty big losers because of it. Reading this list gave me a little pick-me-up because it encouraged me to realize I focus on what we're NOT doing rather than realizing what we are doing well. On a personal note, I'm super impressed that you chose to have a good relationship with your ex for your son over a plush bank account - that's some good stuff and I'm not sure I would have had the chops to do the same.

  7. Taking a share of your spouse's retirement is not a mistake in many situations. If the deal was that one person stayed home, or you contributed to one plan but not the other spouse's (unavailable, etc) - then they should be split. If you both contributed equally to your retirements (or you did something foolish with your money) - then no - but otherwise that is really a joint asset (and the law treats it as such no matter what you think). Lots of women live in poverty when they get to retirement (and before) because they get a sahre of retirement. So while I otherwise agree with most of these (since my mom did a lot of them) i disagree *alot* with that one.

    • It was a little different in my case because I wasn't a stay at home parent. We both worked, so he would have also been entitled to half of MY retirement if I'd taken half of his (community property state). While it still would have worked to my advantage (because he had about 20 times what I did in his account), he paid for everything while I finished college and grad school and started my career, so I didn't feel like that money was mine to take. I agree that women who don't work should take their half of the retirement account - AND feel good about it - but that wasn't my situation. Plus we were only married for 8 years - it's not like we had been married for 30. That would have made things different.

  8. I have borrowed money from a friend but I did keep it like a credit card debt where I paid her biweekly and gave her interest. The others I haven't done but some don't apply to me.

  9. I thought I was doing pretty good until I got to #9. I can say that this was when we weren't so great with our finances. When we took our honey moon on a cruise (the cruise was a gift), we went a little "overboard" (pun intended lol) with our spending and didn't keep track of it while on the cruise. This is what really put us into gear and we finally paid off all of our debt (other than our house) within 3 years of hard work. Great Job!

  10. That's 10 more reasons why you are an awesome person in my books.

    They are quite a few mistakes I haven't made but sometimes what is a mistake to you might not be for me. Obviously stealing and fraud is wrong. What I am talking about is that some people might consider student loans a mistake while others may not.

  11. Love this list-and I haven't done these either so kudos to both of us!

    I view my mistakes as learning opportunities, and I know for certain I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't taken the time to analyze my screw-ups and take away the positive pieces still left.

  12. Haha you already beat my mom when she was raising me as a single mother because she DEFINITELY took allllllllll the money I saved from birthdays and christmas (granted, I got a lot as gifts from her) and she put it into a mutual fund for me to use later. I still have no idea what happened to it but she told me it was gone. I know she used it wisely since she is an accountant but still, I think it's funny how I saved it all and never used any of it. Maybe that's why I never learned how to save - it wasn't fun for me as a child!

  13. Very nice. I lost a couple hundred bucks on a couple late-night make money while you sleep ripoffs back when I was 18 or 19, but other than that I'm not guilty of any of these either.

  14. I did #2! (Yes, I know how funny that is…lol)

    We pre-bought a box of girl scout cookies from our neighbor and she came by to collect…we didn't have even $3! We use debit for everything now so we can track it, and she even said "You don't have even $3?" Mrs. Nosy! We had to write up an IOU for our son that day. :)

  15. I have been lucky never to have needed to do any of the ten, but my parents weren't so lucky when I was young. Out of the ten, they did only number 2. It is a long thing to go into, so I won't here (perhaps will blog about it on my own) but as a child of parents who did No. 2, I am not sure all parents who do No. 2 deserve a place in hell. My parents definitely don't.

    Perhaps it is cultural thing, but lines aren't drawn so clearly between parent and child in where I am from. As long as the money is used for the benefit of the entire family during hard times, I wonder why it would be wrong to use the child's money, especially when the child came by it just for existing, and when the child also benefits from using it?

  16. I'm Chinese, and I live in South East Asia, so I guess that's where the difference comes in. For a long time, this area has been poor. Many places in SEA still are poor. For survival, the best way to operate is as a family unit, where several people can pool resources together. It matters little whether the money comes from a parent or a child. Of course, taking money from the family to gamble, buy luxurious stuff etc, is frowned upon, but that is the case whether one steals from a spouse, relative or his/her own children. The child is no more special than the adults in this case. Less so, because they don't have the responsibilty of providing for the family. In a way

    When a family's financial situation gets better, the same pooling of resources get applied to wealth building. Therefore, as long as it is for a good cause, I personally don't see a problem using their kid's money.

    I guess I was particularly sensitive to this topic, because not so long ago, I read another opinion that you should borrow from a friend before using your kid's savings. My response was that if a friend approached me for a loan while his kids were sitting on thousands of dollars of college savings, I'm definitely questioning his priorities. I will also be questioning the value of family in the first place if the lines were drawn this clearly.

    • What an interesting point of view! Thanks for coming back to share your experiences. I couldn't see myself going without necessities while my son had all kinds of money in the bank, but things would have to be REALLY bad before I would use that money to pay for things I should be paying for myself. I guess it's an American thing - I feel responsible for the choices I've made and that it's not someone else's job to help me just because I screwed up. My family would help if I was truly unable to buy food or pay for electricity or something, but unless it's a dire emergency, they have no idea how much money I have or don't have. Just a different way of doing things I guess.I think Americans look at things differently because the country as a whole has always had so much wealth. Even our poor are better off than the poor in many other countries. Since the economy here has been so horrible, though, I've noticed a lot more people moving in with family members and combining incomes. If things don't improve, I could see this becoming more widespread, and it doesn't sound like it would be a bad thing.

      • I definitely don't think there is a right and a wrong here, just different perspectives. So glad I could offer up something of interest!

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