So you wanna be rich eh?
Me too, me too.
Are you self-sabotaging, though? Highly likely. Here are 101 actions that’ll never make you rich.
Do you do any of these?
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- Indulging your kids with a relaxing day at the spa
Little Sally or Johnny don’t need their nails done or hair did. Promise. Shudder if you become the parent who says, “I don’t want them to feel that my saying ‘no’ means that I don’t love them.”
- Cruising in a new luxury vehicle
Cars lose nearly half their value coming straight of the lot and insurance and maintenance for luxury vehicles gets expensive quick. Save yourself the headache and buy a reasonably priced, well-maintained used car.
- Paying ATM fees
Now this is just laziness. If you feel like you need to pull out cash, try doing cash back at your nearest grocery store. Or go with a bank that covers ATM fees like Schwab.
- Refusing to negotiate
Whether for big purchases like a house or fighting for raises at your job, one of the quickest ways to make money and save money is to negotiate. Think about it, as long as you are polite but firm, the worst that can happen is they say no. But if you don’t at least try, nothing will change at all.
- Carrying credit card debt
Easy access to overwhelming levels of debt for the low, low interest rate of 15% APR? No thank you!
- Shopping in order to “save money”
Just because something is on sale doesn’t mean you should get it. If it wasn’t on your original list of needs, really consider if you should be buying it. 50% off is still 50% more than you otherwise would be spending.
- Staying “on trend” with new clothes and accessories
This year’s trend green polka dots on neon yellow tank tops? You know what, skip it. Buy clothes that look good on you and don’t get caught up on the trend treadmill. Not only will you save money, but you also won’t be the millionth woman in town with the same Longchamp tote.
- Watching hours upon hours of television
Ignoring for a moment the terrible consumerist bombardment that you deal with in commercials, TV time, while possibly relaxing, can usually be put to better use. Try taking up a money-making hobby or research other interests in the time you’d otherwise just veg in front of the TV.
Bad for your wallet but worse for your health, smoking hits your finances both in the short and long term. Do yourself (and your lungs) a favor and quit if you can.
- Buying the latest tech gadget
Yes the latest iPhone is shiny and new, but you’re still paying off the one from last year that works perfectly fine too. Consider getting a refurbished gadget from Gazelle instead.
- Buying sparkly accessories for said gadget
Matching headphones and glittering smartphone cases. Oh well, might as well make it out of diamonds if you’re so insistent on wasting money.
- Believing that saving is for other people
Guess what, it’s not! Without a saving plan in place, you put yourself in the crosshairs of financial destruction. Don’t rely on other people to bail you out. Get it in gear with an emergency fund, stat!
- Living in a bigger house than you can afford
Not only are the mortgage payments going to eat you alive, but between the maintenance and property taxes it’ll be a miracle paying that sucker off. Consider instead downgrading to a house that fits your needs with a mortgage between 2-3x your annual income.
- Shopping as a hobby
Shopping when you’re feeling under the weather or just bored is an easy way to fall into consumer debt, and fast. Quick tip: find a less expensive hobby. Also, consider whether you’re using shopping as an emotional crutch or to fill some sort of void. Think about talking to someone on better ways to vent and addressing what might be other more core, underlying issues.
- Eating take out every day
$10 lunches every workday will cost you roughly $10x5x52 = $2600/year. That’s enough cash for a round-trip ticket or two to Europe! Cut your spending by cooking extra for dinner and brown bagging the leftovers for a nutritious, delicious, and much cheaper meal.
- Hosting an extravagant wedding
Isn’t it nice, celebrating this private union between two people by rushing in hoards to the mediocre catered buffet with a thousand others of their closest friends and family? No? Then cut the guest list, skip the fancy floral fixings, and focus on what matters for you as a couple. Start off your marriage right: without a bunch of debt from your wedding.
- Buying a boat
We mention boats here, but what we really mean is any doodad more expensive than a car with high maintenance cost that you’ll use maybe a couple times during the summer. See also: racing cars, planes.
- Cheating on your significant other
Having an affair is expensive, not to mention what a divorce will do to your net worth.
- Joining an expensive gym
How much are you paying for your gym membership? Even better question: how much are you even using that gym membership? Consider instead embarking on a home exercise program. Nothing nicer than taking a private shower in your own house after a tough workout.
- Letting groceries go bad
Also buying perishable items in bulk. Wasting food is like throwing money straight into the trashcan. Avoid this by keeping stock of what’s going to go bad soon, and creating cohesive meal plans to use up leftover ingredients.
- Splurging on bottle service
Are those two bottles of vodka really worth $500? Let me answer that for you: no, no they are not. Ditch the pricey markup and pre-game when going out to the bar or club instead.
- Keeping an exotic pet
Exotic pets come at expensive prices and will sometimes need additional training to become more hospitable to domesticated living.
- Forgetting to pay bills on time
Accruing late fees for bills you can pay now is making the worst kind of unforced error. If you’re having trouble keeping bills organized, try receiving online statements and paying automatically through AutoPay.
- Buying books you’ll never read again
How many books have you bought that you only ever read once or even are sitting idly, unread on your shelf? Consider instead borrowing books from your local library. Less money and fewer things to pack away the next time you move! Get a Kindle and use the library, instead.
- Skipping retirement contributions because retirement’s “so far away”
By delaying contributions to your retirement account, you are losing out on magic that is compound interest. Better to start earlier and get in the habit with small contributions than wait until you’re 60 and find you have nothing in the bank.
- Spending more than you earn
This is key. No matter what you do, make sure to spend less than what you earn. It is, without a doubt, the only way to save money.
- Acquiring new clothes so as not to wear the same outfit twice
I have to admit I’ve definitely done this to avoid wearing the same dress to every wedding throughout my twenties. That said, the vast majority of the time, nobody notices (or cares) what you’re wearing as long as you are presentable. Plus, taking a style tip from the late Steve Jobs, having a uniform look can help mark your own signature style.
- Keeping your money in a savings account because you’re afraid of investing
As risky as the stock market is, you are guaranteed to lost money by letting it sit in a bank account. How, you ask? Inflation! Every year your money is worth less and less and, unless you put it to work, will someday end up a pittance of its former self.
- Dressing up your pets
Fido doesn’t really need a custom costume for Halloween and would much rather you not make him look like a reindeer for Christmas, no matter how cute you might think it is.
- Drinking from the bottle (Bottled water, that is)
In most taste test studies, subjects can’t tell the difference in taste between bottled and tap water. In addition, many bottled water sites use the same sources as what goes into local tap water streams. Cut the plastic and help the environment by using a filter or just drinking tap water straight.
- Paying retail prices
You know how much retail goods are marked up? Enough so that they can sell you the same goods for half-off a year later and still make a profit. Post-Halloween candy for pennies on the dollar. Bathing suits 40% off in the fall. Be patient and cut your spending by buying in the off-season.
- Calling a taxi because you’re feeling too lazy to walk
If you’ve just been drinking and/or live in the far-flung suburbs, then fine take the cab. But city dwellers, consider if you really need an Uber to pick you up for a 2 block hike.
- Subscribing to magazines you don’t even read
How many stacks of magazines do you have just sitting around gathering dust? And, I don’t know about you, but each of those suckers can keep me entertained for maybe an hour, tops. Try checking out blogs or articles online in your field of interest instead.
- Giving Uncle Sam a tax-free loan
While it’s nice getting a tax refund check every year, remember that that’s always been your money. Your money that you lent to Uncle Sam tax-free! Imagine if you’d had it growing in an investment account from day 1. It’s a considerable chunk of change.
- Overdrafting your checking account
Another example in the vein of Stop Paying Unnecessary Bank Fees. Keep a little buffer in your account, just in case. Or if you can’t, many banks offer overdraft protection.
- Dressing your kids in designer labels
Kids fit their clothes for approximately ten seconds before they either grow out of it or they start falling apart from heavy use. Your kids won’t remember how much Dior they wore, but your checking account will definitely be keeping tabs.
- Taking a daily trip to Starbucks
Have you ever heard of the latte factor? Small purchases, like buying an overpriced coffee every day, add up and turn into big expenditures over time.
- Dropping big bucks for an engagement ring
Engagement ring money can generally be better used for things like a house down payment or to start your kid’s college fund. Lack of fancy blood diamonds won’t change an “I Do” to an “I Don’t”. Or, if they do, there are probably bigger issues with your relationship that need sorting out.
- Living with FOMO
Not going to every outing, social event, or bar hopping won’t kill you. Nor are your friends secretly excising you from their social circle when you’re not there. Plus they’re having less fun than you think, no matter what they’re saying on Facebook.
- Waiting until the last minute to book plane tickets
You go visit your aunt in Idaho for Christmas every year, so why do you always put off buying tickets until the middle of December? Checking for flights a month or more before a planned trip will help you avoid the huge last minute run up in price.
- Not waiting until the last minute to book plane tickets
On the other hand, some of the best deals to be had on flights are last-minute bookings. In fact, as I sit here writing this, Expedia is advertising a round-trip flight from NYC to SFO for $313 through American.
- Buying expensive equipment for a hobby you barely practice
Bought a new pair of skis but have yet to hit the slopes? Stop buying aspirational hobby equipment. Case in point for you bloggers out there, just because you buy a DSLR doesn’t make you a photographer if you don’t go out there and shoot.
- Picking chic restaurants
According to this foodie economist, trendy is the enemy of good food. He suggests that instead of going to the latest American bistro, check out your local family-run places for delicious and inexpensive eats. Try getting a Groupon, if you’re going to head to a restaurant.
- Driving a flashy gas-guzzler
Gas may be cheap now, but it’s only a matter of time until the price of oil makes a comeback. Not to mention the damage these things do to the environment.
- Adding a movie theater or bowling alley to your house
Renovations can often add value to retro homes. However, there’s not a lot of demand for outlandish additions like a home movie theater or bowling alley.
- Drinking top-shelf wine
Even trained sommeliers cannot tell the difference in taste between a pricey and a cheap wine. As long as you’re not drinking wine from a box, save yourself the money and stick with the low-to-mid priced options.
- Relying on $6 cards from Hallmark
What says love and thought and care more than a mass-produced card made by someone you don’t know? Hint: anything else. Make something by hand or if absolutely needed send your gift-receiver an e-card.
- Cranking up the heat in the winter
Gas bills are expensive.
- Making your house an ice box in the summer
Electric bills are also expensive. Double negative points if it’s so cold inside you have to put on a sweater.
- Skipping class
Ditching class is outright refusing all the benefits an education can provide. Even worse if you’re in college and paying for those classes too!
- Wearing designer sunglasses
Designer sunglasses might be chic, but let’s face it, you’re bound to lose them sooner or later and they’re not even better for your eyes. In fact, most sunglasses are all made by the exact same company.
- Ignoring health problems before it’s too late
Doctor co-pays and preventative care are much cheaper than surgery and catastrophic illness. Not to mention what good health does for your mood and wellbeing.
- Having more cars than people in your household
Two people + three cars = the math doesn’t seem to add up.
- Visiting a stylist monthly
I’m sure your perfectly-styled quaff is a downright American treasure. But those luscious locks aren’t going to support you in your old age quite like an extra $100/month into the retirement account might.
- Hitting up the bar or club every weekend
If the markup on alcohol doesn’t decimate your savings account, the cost to treat the inevitable liver cirrhosis surely will.
“Fucking brunch. Fucking brunch is the reason I will never own property.”
- Taking up an expensive hobby
Riding horses. Flying planes. Collecting trading cards. What do these things all have in common? The constant and ceaseless bleeding of money.
- Buying anything As Seen on TV
After seeing it advertised on TV, I remember convincing my parents to buy me an Ab Roller as a kid. Surprise, surprise, I’m still waiting on those bulging arm muscles and rippling six pack.
- Putting all your money in an underdog penny stock
Remember what happened during the Dot Com bubble? While some people hit it big with penny stocks, it’s much more likely such a risky and undiversified investing move will wipe you out. Don’t be greedy; stick to a nice diversified ETF.
- Living vicariously (and expensively) through your kids
Does little Sally really want to go to horseback riding camp this summer, or rather did you when you were a kid but never had the chance? Those expensive activities, the flood of toys on gift-giving holidays– check yourself to see if you’re really buying for your children or really just buying for yourself.
- Detailing your ride
Spinning rims aren’t cheap. They also serve no practical purpose.
- Getting your nails done professionally
Grab a friend and some polish and you’ve got essentially the same thing at a fraction of the price.
- Buying organic
What does organic even mean anymore?
- Living in a hip area
Housing is among the top three biggest financial outlays for most Americans. Living in a “trendy” area by the downtown or nearby a lot of restaurants only serves to add appreciably more to that expense.
- Shopping aspirationally rather than for your needs
Do you really need that lava rock guacamole bowl or are you just buying it to show you’re a person who can whip up homemade Tex-Mex often enough to use it?
- Watching the latest summer blockbuster in IMAX
Shiny, 3-D, and action-packed, this movie is busting into theaters right through your wallet.
- Subscribing to 300 cable channels
How many of these channels do you actually watch, and how much of what you do watch can you find on Hulu, Amazon, or Netflix?
- Skipping your 401(k) match
If your employer is offering 401(k) matching and you don’t take them up on it, that’s like saying, “Free money? Sorry, no not interested.”
Insurance can definitely help your family in a bad situation in case of catastrophe. Too often people skip life, health, or disability insurance due to premiums, but end up paying the price in spades later.
On the other hand, make sure you’re not paying for additional insurance riders you don’t need. For example, for your home insurance, insuring for petty assets you have yet to keep a log of in case there ever was actually an emergency.
- Renovating your bathroom with imported tiles
And other luxury renovations. Sure it’ll increase your home value, but typically that value doesn’t get matched dollar-for-dollar. Renovate if you like it, not because you think it’ll make your house a more appealing buy.
- Buying high-end headphones to listen to your ripped mp3s
Many mp3s nowadays are optimized for the best sound quality on those super cheap generic headphones. Skip yourself the heartache, audiophiles, and save the deep base headphones for higher quality recordings.
- Sending to your kid to private school when you live in a good public school district
Why choose between the expensive tuition or the high property taxes when instead you can pay both!
- Entering the lottery
Never understood why people recoil against the risk of the stock market but eagerly cross state borders for the privilege to lose money in the state lottery. Your odds of hitting it big are actually significantly worse than your odds of being struck by lightening.
- Going on a juice cleanse
Not only is this a fading and expensive fad (seriously, who pays $10 for a single serving of juice?), juice cleanses aren’t even good for you.
- Investing in Ponzi schemes
Same with multilevel marketing, Nigerian princes, and the like. Get rich quick schemes are usually anything but.
- Giving fancy gifts for every occasion
Not every birthday needs to be met with a bottle of premium liquor, nor every Christmas with a brand new iPod.
- Buying a bigger home to fit all your furniture
Perhaps the worst reason I’ve ever heard for buying a bigger home. Got too much stuff in your house? Why don’t you just sell it instead of upgrading in order to, inevitably, just buy even more furniture?
- Trashing your relatives’ antique furniture to fit your new Ikea wardrobe
Never look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if that horse if giving you solid wood furniture. Buck the modernist and minimalist Ikea trend, and keep with your grandmother’s old puce couch. At least it won’t break the next time you move.
- Starting a business without a monetization strategy
About half of businesses fail within the first five years. Make sure if you’re going deep with such an investment to do your homework first.
- Vacationing in the Caribbean every year
It used to be that an international vacation was something really special, something that Americans would maybe do once for their honeymoon then once again when they retire. Consider instead this summer to pay a visit to your local national park or staycationing like a tourist in your own city.
- Using debt like income
Just because you have access to money in the form of credit cards, cash advances, HELOCs, or student loans doesn’t mean you’ve earned it. Treating yourself with debt-money or relying on it for your primary expenses is just asking for trouble.
- Buying in-app items and add-ons
Do you really need to spend real world money to get past the fifth level dungeon monster in Candy Crush?
- Overusing pricey colognes
Sure, the musky smell is great, but more than two or three drops and your date will be heading for the nearest open window.
- Buying into an expensive co-op or condo associations
Condo associations will bleed you dry with HOA fees if you let them. And unless you really need the doorman, the pool, the upscale in-building gym, skip the fancy high-rises and buy into a low-rise or small homeowner’s association instead.
- Purchasing overpriced trinkets at souvenir shops
Those $20 chile-shaped salt-and-pepper shakers aren’t bringing your Mom down south, so why insist on giving it to her after your trip to Mexico?
- Inking up a tattoo with the name of your “one true love”
Tattoos are expensive. Getting them removed when you and schmoopie break up? Even more so.
- Loaning money to friends and family
A “loan” is never really a loan when friends and family are involved. When the people you know start asking for money, don’t give it to them. Or, at least, don’t expect to get paid back.
- Paying for museum passes
Many museums will have a free pass or suggested donation night for local residents. Both a great date idea and a good way to avoid entrance fees.
- Quitting your job without a backup
Need I say more? This is just a 100% terrible idea. Unless your work is putting you in constant physical danger, start going to some interviews, secure yourself and job offer, and then bail.
- Spending money on strangers at bars and clubs
Buying strangers drinks might be a great way to ingratiate yourself with them. Or not. Either way, you’ll be out of a significant chunk of change for your “generosity.”
- Getting your fortune told
If your psychic were honest, they’d tell you, “In a few minutes you will be twenty dollars poorer and have nothing but my half-guesses and ramblings to show for it!”
- Skipping birth control
Yes condoms and birth control pills are pricey. You know what’s even more expensive though? Kids.
- Getting Botox injections
Who knew people would pay so much money to have a lethal toxin literally injected into their face?
- Signing up for the local country club
Better get some face time with the boss so you can get a high enough raise to cover the ridiculous monthly club fees.
- Getting a VIP credit card with a high annual membership fee
Sure these cards have lots of perks, but how many of those do you actually use? More form than function, consider if the ability to show off your heavy titanium-alloy card is really worth the $1000 annual fee.
- Buying expensive already-ripped clothing
Here’s looking at you Free People.
- Vanity publishing
Got a story to tell but can’t get a publisher to print it? There might be a reason why. With the dying industry that is print media, vanity publishing comes at great expense and risk to writers. Consider releasing your story in the form of an eBook or having it borrowable on the Kindle instead.
- Ignoring the tax implications of financial transactions
Mad Fientist found that by using tax-advantaged investing, he was able to make 30% more than by less optimal tax-inefficient strategies.
- Buying a purebred pet (from a breeder).
It’s so much cheaper adopting a pet from the pound. Plus you’ll be introducing an animal that needs a loving and caring home into your life.
- Waiting until the last minute to do holiday shopping
Don’t get caught in the frenzy that is last-minute holiday shopping. Retailers know they can gouge prices at this point, not to mention overnight shipping is expensive.
Rafael Arcanjo says
Hello, I liked your article, it has helped me a lot in this respect and from today
I will follow
Your site, and put into practice what you teach on your site!
Pretty comprehensive list there, but #s 31 and 6 contradict each other.
Couponing and following sales newsletters is simply wise. There are seasonal sales, and then everything gets slashed from it thereafter. That makes for the perfect time to stock up on what you can use into the future.
Things with shelf lifes should just be bought in small amounts, though. Things like clothes and seasonal decor can be stored until the following year, though.
I know a lady who embroidered her own Ohio State University sweatshirt, using a sweatshirt she found for $6. It looked like she bought it from a sports shop! (We don’t all have an embroidery machine and stockpile of thread, though.)
But, closeout fabric sales…Well, it CAN be good to have a hobby, anyway.
I wouldn’t say that they contradict each other necessarily; buying things you don’t need just because they are a good deal (not already a need) vs shopping sales. For example, a 50% off swimsuit when you already have one in good shape vs six jars of peanut butter because it’s 25% off; one is a want and the other is a need.
That’s fun that she made her own sweatshirt, I hope she doesn’t get in trouble for copyright infringement!
Wow that’s so cool I’m sure your partner must be super lucky to have you lols 😀
But yes some points I do agree thanks for enlightening
Prudence Debtfree says
I will have to come back and finish the list. It’s good! (I got to #30). I must confess that I do have an expensive gym membership, but I think it’s of high value. Both my husband and I go to it and the instructors are awesome. We get a better workout when we go than we do anywhere else. I think that some people really benefit from the instruction and schedules offered by a gym, I really do. I’ve tried the “I’ll do it of my own volition” route, and I don’t end up working out at all.
Prudence Debtfree recently posted…Business Debt ELIMINATED! Debt-Free Except for the Mortgage
Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet says
Wow, thats a huge list. I never thought of having an affair as expensive but it definitely is – a divorce can get nasty (and expensive) in a hurry, and essentially chop a net worth in half right away
Dan @ Our Big Fat Wallet recently posted…Putting Your Emergency Cash Savings to Work
kay kat kathy etc. ~ The Barefoot Minimalist says
That was a GREAT list and well worth the 4 hours it took to read it! 😛 Seriously though, that was a great list and I’m actually going to stash it away to reference for if (and probably when) I slip up in any of these areas in the future. 🙂
kay kat kathy etc. ~ The Barefoot Minimalist recently posted…A Brand New Day 🙂
I’m so glad that you liked it 🙂 I’m sure it took Taylor quite a while to compile!
Wow you did an excellent job with compiling this list Taylor! Skipping class was a huge nono for me precisely because of the reason you mentioned. I roughly calculated each class to be worth $120 so there was no way I was going to throw that money away so easily. And I laughed out loud at you calling out Free People (I’ll rip my own clothes if I have to, thank you very much).
Anum recently posted…13 Ways You Are Blowing Your Money Away
diane @smartmoneysimplelife says
Wow… That’s an impressive list! I admit, there’s a few on that list I to which I’d have to plead guilty – in the past. For example, I used to smoke and quit 10 years ago this September. I can’t even begin to imagine how much money that’s saved me!
Luckily though, there aren’t too many that pop up nowadays. 🙂
diane @smartmoneysimplelife recently posted…15 Frugal Living Tips – To Get You Started
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents says
No cents in worrying yourself over the past (ba-dum-dum). Just keep up the awesome progress!
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents recently posted…May 2015 – Monthly Spending Update
Congratulations on quitting!! It also puts a lot of time back in your day 🙂
Kayla @ Femme Frugality says
Great list! I have been guilty of a few of these, but luckily most of them are habits I’ve never had or have already changed. Now if only I could get my eating out and clothes shopping under better control, I’d be set!
Kayla @ Femme Frugality recently posted…Overcoming Our Fears for a Super Cheap Cruise Vacation
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents says
No shame in having one or two “spending vices”. And I’m not only saying that because I too spend ridiculous amounts on food.
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents recently posted…Buying A Fixer Upper: Worth It?
Brian @DebtDiscipline says
What a list! I’ve been guilty of a few, trying not to repeat these mistakes now. 🙂
Brian @DebtDiscipline recently posted…The Importance of an Emergency Fund
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents says
Hah, I’ve been guilty of more than just a few, so you’re in good company.
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents recently posted…How Much I Spent Buying A House
What an exhaustive list! And I am ashamed that I have been caught up in some of the examples (like paying ATM fees and buying a bigger home to fit all my furniture). I like to think I am smarter now. Maybe.
Taylor, I love that you are also an engineer. I’m an aerospace engineer 🙂 Nice to meet you!
Kirsten recently posted…Let’s Not Start a Student Loan Default Movement
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents says
Just because I wrote the list doesn’t mean I don’t do these occasionally, though I’d wager to say only about half are from first-hand experience. ;p
Woot female engineers!
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents recently posted…May 2015 – Monthly Spending Update
Great list! So many things on here that don’t sound very outrageous but really add up. I’m not above box wine, though; sometimes it is better than cheap bottles! I’d add one thing: not donating to charity. It’s a common habit of the wealthy, and just a good financial habit in general. It seems like it’d make you less wealthy but it can lead to better financial discipline when you don’t view your money as all about you, and therefore make better choices with it.
Kalie recently posted…Get Rich With Generosity
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents says
Definitely a good one! Adopting the habits of the healthy bringing you one step closer to becoming one of them.
Taylor Lee @ Engineer Cents recently posted…May 2015 – Monthly Spending Update