The Worst Things You Could Do With Your Money

A pile of burning money

Are you burning through your cash? | NRCC

Have you ever made a terrible decision with your money? If so, there are plenty of folks who can also say they’ve made some pretty bad choices with their finances. Roughly two-thirds of middle-income Americans said they have made at least one really bad financial decision, according to a survey on household finances by the Consumer Federation of America and Primerica. In addition, close to 50% of those respondents admitted they have made more than one poor money choice.

We all make dumb money mistakes every now and then, but these mistakes can be tough to recover from. They can also be quite expensive. The survey found the average cost of bad financial decisions was $23,000.

The important thing is you learn from your bad financial decisions. Here are the absolute worst things you can do with your money and how to get back on track.

Financially support a slacker family member

cat sleeping in the blanket, selective focus

Don’t support a slacker’s lifestyle. | iStock.com/Gumpanat

Just about every family has one: a slacker family member who can’t seem to, or doesn’t want to, get his or her act together. Lending (or more likely giving) money to a family member who clearly has no plans to become a contributing member of society is basically flushing money down the toilet. Think of your contribution as a gift you will never see again.

You seem to get suckered into giving up your cash every time because your family member always says this will be the last time he asks for help. Then, it happens again. It’s time for you to realize things will never change — and your leaching family member likes it that way.

Next: No more handouts.

 A better use of your money

Woman grocery shopping in a supermarket

Pay your family member to do small errands for you. | iStock.com/Minerva Studio

Once it becomes obvious your family member is not interested in doing better, it’s time to cut off his or her money supply. Don’t contribute to the problem by not providing enough motivation for him or her to actively seek solid employment. If you still feel compelled to help, one option is to offer to pay your family member to do small errands for you or watch the kids (if you have any). Once your relative realizes there won’t be any more handouts, he or she will likely decide to go out and look for work.

Next: Get rich quick?

Chase stock gains

man holding up bill

Don’t chase stock gains. | Paramount Pictures

Some people, especially new investors, get impatient when it comes to returns. They’re looking to invest in popular stocks and expect big gains right away. As soon as they hear positive company news, they’re ready to jump on the next big thing, hoping to make a lot of money. Then, once they see their portfolio start to lose money, they want out and decide to sell their stocks. Unfortunately, the stock market doesn’t work that way. It’s not like putting money in a slot machine and then walking away once you see you’re not going to win the grand prize.

Next: Be patient.

 A better use of your money

plants on piles of coins

Patience is key. | iStock.com/RomoloTavani

When it comes to investing, patience is key. You can’t expect to get rich overnight. Think of investing as putting seeds in the ground and waiting for a crop to grow. You won’t see results right away, but with time you’ll reap a harvest you’ll hopefully be able to enjoy. Learn the basics of investing, take time to research the companies you’d like to invest in, and then go from there. If you’re new to investing, you might also want to consider joining an investment club.

Next: A dollar and a dream that might never come true.

 Play the lotto

trash can with money

If you play the lotto regularly, you might as well throw your money straight in the trash. | iStock.com

Some people set aside money in their budget for lottery ticket purchases. Hopefully you’re not one of them. If you are it’s time to remove that budget item. Winning the lottery should not be a part of your overall wealth plan. Just because your neighbor won the lotto 10 years ago doesn’t mean you’re next. Don’t blow off saving and investing for your future based on wild hopes you’ll hit the jackpot. It’s unlikely you’ll realize your dream of discovering you have the winning ticket during your lunch break and then never returning to work.

Next: Build a nest.

A better use of your money

woman hand putting coin into piggy bank

Set aside at least six to eight months’ worth of emergency savings. | iStock.com/dolgachov

If you have enough cash to spend on dozens of lottery tickets each pay day, then you have enough to put into savings or an investment account. Most financial experts recommend setting aside at least six to eight months’ worth of emergency savings. Other experts recommend working your way up to 12 months. Old lottery tickets won’t get you out of a jam when your car breaks down or the rent is due. So prepare now for the financial emergency that’s sure to come your way.

Next: YOLO is a no-go.

Live for today

Couple riding bicycles in the city

If you only live for today, you’ll pay for it tomorrow. | iStock.com/gpointstudio

Why save for tomorrow when you can enjoy life today? Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so live it up now — said the person with thousands in credit card debt and two months behind on mortgage payments. Living for today might seem like a lot of fun, but it eventually catches up to you. We know delaying gratification can be a bit of a drag, but future you will appreciate the effort. Don’t risk financial security for a few moments of mindless spending. You might have to give up a few vacations

Next: Have some (frugal) fun.

 A better use of your money

Couple shopping online at laptop computer

Build fun into your budget. | iStock.com/oneinchpunch

Being financially responsible isn’t exciting; that’s because it’s not supposed to be. The point of good financial management is to make sure you have a secure future. Instead of spending money whenever and however you want, create room in your budget just for fun things. You could save for expenses related to a hobby or for a day trip with your friends. Build some recreation into your budget. This will reduce the chances you’ll go on a shopping spree out of rebellion because you feel deprived.

Next: I’m rich!

 Spend raises and bonuses

taking cash out of wallet

Save raises and bonuses. | iStock.com/dolgachov

Whenever you get raises and bonuses, you probably feel just a little bit richer. And as soon as you get that money in your hot hands, you’re tempted to spend it as fast as you can. But after a quick trip to the mall, you’re wondering where all the money went. Now you’re back to square one and counting the days until it’s time for your next raise and bonus.

Next: Have a plan for your money.

A better use of your money

 Piggybank

Have a plan for your money. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Instead of blowing through your cash, make a plan for it. Set aside some of your bonus, and raise money for paying down high-interest debt or for saving and investing. Then, set aside whatever is left over for spending however you want. Whenever you’re expecting a windfall, sit down and plan how you want to use that money. Tell your money where to go before it decides the outcome of your financial future for you.

Follow Sheiresa on Twitter @SheiresaNgo.

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