Seven small money mistakes that really add up

For a lot of us, money doesn’t start making itself heard until it gets nice and big. Buying a new home? You’re fully aware of how much you’re spending on what. Same goes for your other big purchases and expenditures.

Small money, however, has a tendency to slip through the cracks. We might be aware of the fact that we’re slightly overspending or wasting a little bit of money, but we don’t worry about it, because it’s such a small amount. Unfortunately, those small amounts add up over time, meaning those little bad habits can end up being quite costly indeed.

If you care about money (and I have to assume you do, since you’re reading this), then you don’t want any of yours going to waste. With that in mind, here are seven very small, very common money mistakes that add up over time.

Mistake #1: Buying small and buying often

This is basically the inverse of buying bulk. You need something, you buy a small quantity of it, and soon you have to buy some more. The fix, however, isn’t to just go ahead and buy everything in bulk. Buying in bulk isn’t always the best choice. The trick is to recognize those small purchase patterns. Maybe you go to the gym four times a week, and every time you go, you stop at the mini mart on the way and buy a bottle of Gatorade. Planning ahead and buying in greater volume in those kinds of circumstances will save you significant money over time.

Mistake #2: Choosing convenience over forethought

Building off of that first mistake, neglecting to plan ahead is a very costly habit. We’re all occasionally guilty of paying more for convenience because we just don’t feel like putting in the effort. Long day at work? Forget grocery shopping – let’s get takeout! We know that what we’re doing is splurging, but we mentally write it off as a one-time thing that we earned somehow. But every time we pick the easy way out, we cost ourselves money. The more thoroughly you plan your expenses and stick to that plan the less wasteful you’ll end up being.

Mistake #3: Failing to comparison shop

You probably don’t think of it as such, but we very often fall in love with certain products or services and find ourselves buying the same things over and over. We only revaluate when something drastic happens – the price shoots up, the quality changes significantly, etc. If we really cared about our money, however, we’d make those kinds of evaluations every time. Every purchase is another chance to potentially overspend or to save a little money. Try to train yourself to not take anything for granted. Always keep your eyes open for alternatives.

Mistake #4: Not making saving money a priority

Building your savings should not be optional. It shouldn’t be an if-then proposition, where you only set aside money when the circumstances are just right, because very often the circumstances won’t be just right. You need to make contributions to your savings a mandatory expense item and not an option. It needs to live in the budget and happen regularly. You need to be constantly building your emergency savings and your retirement savings. Does your employer offer matching funds on your 401K? Take advantage of that.

Mistake #5: Forgetting what you already have

Here’s something I’m completely guilty of: buying things you already have. This also ties in with planning (or not planning, as it were). We own things, never use them, forget we have them, and then when we do need them, we waste money on new versions. This also applies to your food budget and the perishables we let go to waste because we forgot we even had them. Slow down your purchasing and really think about what you have, what you need, and what you’re planning to do. Thinking things through rarely hurts when it comes to your money.

Mistake #6: Being reactive instead of proactive

Do you know people who prefer to go to the emergency room rather than make an appointment with their doctor? Those people cost themselves a lot of money by refusing to address their issues before they become catastrophes. Being proactive means being willing to spend smartly to prevent small issues from becoming major issues. It’s about investing in your immediate future. When money is tight, people are less likely to spend proactively, and more likely to ignore the ignorable problems. Fight that instinct.

Mistake #7: Forgetting that everything costs money

Ever fall asleep with the TV on? Ever get lost while driving because you thought you could just figure it out? Ever space out in the shower or come home to an ice cold house because you accidentally set the air conditioning too low? Things like that happen all the time and they don’t seem like much, but they all cost you money. We make a lot of little, spur-of-the-moment choices every day and forget to connect those choices to their cost. It adds up. So if you feel yourself drifting off in front of the TV, remember that by not taking a second to grab the remote and kill the power, you’re making a purchase of a sort. You’re spending money. Just remember that and let that influence your choices.

Jesse Campbell photo.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, with over ten years of experience creating valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • Better Business Bureau A+ rating Better Business Bureau
    MMI is proud to have achieved an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), a nonprofit organization focused on promoting and improving marketplace trust. The BBB investigates charges of fraud against both consumers and businesses, sets standards for truthfulness in advertising, and evaluates the trustworthiness of businesses and charities, providing a score from A+ (highest) to F (lowest).
  • Financial Counseling Association of America Financial Counseling Association of America
    MMI is a proud member of the Financial Counseling Association of America (FCAA), a national association representing financial counseling companies that provide consumer credit counseling, housing counseling, student loan counseling, bankruptcy counseling, debt management, and various financial education services.
  • Trustpilot Trustpilot
    MMI is rated as “Excellent” (4.9/5) by reviewers on Trustpilot, a global, online consumer review platform dedicated to openness and transparency. Since 2007, Trustpilot has received over 116 million customer reviews for nearly 500,000 different websites and businesses. See what others are saying about the work we do.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development - Equal Housing Opportunity Department of Housing and Urban Development
    MMI is certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to provide consumer housing counseling. The mission of HUD is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD provides support services directly and through approved, local agencies like MMI.
  • Council on Accreditation Council On Accreditation
    MMI is proudly accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. COA’s thorough, peer-reviewed accreditation process is designed to ensure that organizations like MMI are providing the highest standard of service and support for clients and employees alike.
  • National Foundation for Credit Counseling National Foundation for Credit Counseling
    MMI is a longstanding member of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), the nation’s largest nonprofit financial counseling organization. Founded in 1951, the NFCC’s mission is to promote financially responsible behavior and help member organizations like MMI deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.