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My list of stupid financial mistakes

September 19th, 2011 at 08:43 pm

Brace yourself, this is going to be ugly. This is my list of financial blunders that I hope to overcome in the future and NEVER repeat again. I don't know why I've been so terrible with money before but I am determined to pay off debt and stay out of debt. I hope to teach my children to avoid my financial mistakes as well. it is very important to me that they do not follow my footsteps.

1) For some reason having a nicer car was always important to me. I don't know why -- i wasn't going for luxury or a status car but it was always important for me to have a car that was not a clunker or older than my mother. I have worked since I was 15 so I think from that point I assumed I would always be working so I could 'afford' a car. Anyway, I do recall going through the process of buying cars and then upgrading, upgrading, even before I turned 20. Dummy.

2) Just out of high school, I took out a student loan that I didn't understand to go to college that charged me waaayyy too much money. I don't even recall knowing how much I was borrowing at any point during the process. Completely oblivious. I did graduate with an associates degree and over $12K in student loan debt.

3) I married my highschool nightmare right after I graduated. For some reason I seemed to think that he was capable of paying our bills and being responsible so I was not invovled in the financial aspect of our marriage at all. I think I KNEW how terrible it was so I 'left it up to him' just so I wouldn't have to deal with it. That was a bad choice. It was ugly -- cars, toys, 4 wheelers, and stuff we could not afford or make payments on. He was also a big gambler so we were broke 99.99% of the time. It got so bad that his mother had to take over our finances and pay our bills. I am not blaming him for it but he was the main reason for our circumstances. I was so stupid b/c I did not take a stand to change any of it...i just went along with it. Needless to say, we divorced back in the 90's.

4) After we divorced, I bought a house of my own and happily enough I did very well with managing my finances. The issue was with a car again -- at the time I had a nice older car that I only owed about $3500. Instead of paying it off and driving it for as long as I could, I had to trade it in for a $15K high interest rate car loan on something 'newer'.

5) After about 2-3 years, I had to trade that car in again for a 'new' car....and so the cycle began of rolling in negative equity into the new loan.

6) After getting engaged to my (now) husband, we buy my ring on a credit card. He also sells his house & I sell my house and we build a new house...a huge new house. Together we were probably making $10K a month so we signed up for a $2400 house payment. We should have just stayed in my house and not sell it.

7) After a while, I got the bright idea to refinance the house and put in a pool and include it in the new loan. So we did that and spent $30K on a new pool and increase the amount of our home loan.

8) We have $1000 a month in car payments that cost a small fortune to fill up with gas.

9) After another 2 years or so, we decide to sell our house and relocate. This is just BEFORE the housing market crashes...but it is already on a downhill slope. We went ahead & bought the 2nd house anyway...so now we are carrying 2 mortgages.

11) The new house (current house) was in shambles so we spent our cash savings of $30K to redo the entire house. We also put another $15K on credit for 'no interest till...' deals. Somehow we ended up at one point with $38K in debt on a BoA credit card -- flooring, granite, among other things, etc.

12) The first house did not sell outright -- someone approached us asking to buy the house with us owner financing for the first year. We agree and sign a contract with them. A year later they bail on the house and it is in shambles. My husband was unemployed at this time so we could not save the house and efforts to sell it failed. We foreclose and end up paying a $12K settlement on the smaller 2nd lien with Citibank.

13) We somehow manage to pay down the $38K but I am still leasing cars....then I run up another credit card with bigger ticket items. We weren't using our credit cards all the time either so it was strange how the balance jumps up! It was just stupid, thoughtless spending. Anyway, that got back up to about $20K give or take a little. I decided to pay it off with 401K money. Genius I know.

14) Taxes come due and KILL us -- we get our butts handed to us on the foreclosure situation + the 401K early withdrawal. When we settled the 2nd loan for $12K, the rest of the discharged balance was now income for us. So we owed the IRS several thousand dollars that we have to payoff over a couple of months at high interest.

15) At this point we still haven't learned our lesson and we continue with the new car leases and we are not saving a damn thing.

16) We get out from under the tax bill and would you believe me if I tell you the credit cards creep up again. Of course you would based on this list of monumental screw ups. Looking back I cannot believe I took from my 401K to pay off a credit card only to run it up again. It just doesn't get any more stupid than that.

17) Another embarrassing insertion is that my husband and I invested in a multi-level company to be his replacement career.... We took money from his 401K to pay for this inventory and the business did nothing so we lost that money too. We found out we were not natural born sales people or recruiters.

Several years pass and I am starting to get how much money we've made and how much money we have completely blown. It is shocking & appalling how much money came & went. I start to realize I need to make changes but for some reason we still get new cars...but at 0% interest (wink)!! And when I look back on our lifestyle, we are not really flashy or rich looking people. It wasn't really about looking rich or glamorous or having the best...I don't really know what our motivation was other than we thought we could afford it so we bought it.

Other than dealing with my husband's layoff and the foreclsoure on the 2nd house, during this entire timeline we never missed payments or were late on anything so we maintained excellent credit. That was partly what fed the problem, our credit score was probably around the 800's so we could easily get credit for whatever we wanted to buy. Our credit cards alone offered up to $60-70K in available credit. TV's, furniture, cars, a 4 wheeler at one point -- getting credit was super easy for us. Even after the foreclosure, our credit score dropped to the lower 700 range and we still qualified for 0% financing after we explained that 'one blip on the radar' to an otherwise very good payment history. We had too much available credit and my Dumb A$$ assumed that if I could afford the payment, I could afford to buy it.

After this legacy of disaster, we are finally on a written budget. While we are still paying off some debt, the credit cards are finally gone and cancelled. The student loan is paid off. My oldest daughter's tuition has been paid with cash and hopefully we will continue to cash flow college for her. We mainly just have car debt remaining other than our house. We are working to address this and I just sold off one of my cars. The plan is to pay off all cars and keep them forever...and if need, replace with used cars we can pay for with cash. After that, we will work to get our EF in place and double our efforts to prepare for retirement and ultimately pay off our house. We also want to save money for our family tree and give to those who need help.

God willing, he will continue to bless us with employment and our very good incomes. We understand how critical it has become for us to be smart and plan for our FUTURE instead of plan for what we can buy today.

That is all for now. If I think of any other completely embarrassing and colossal mistakes, I will add them to the list. Right now I am not looking forward to the list of OMG's you all will post in the comments.

7 Responses to “My list of stupid financial mistakes”

  1. Thrifty Ray Says:

    OUCH. Some very tough lessons in that history...thank you for sharing. It sounds like you are making positive financial changes to do it better next time!!

  2. baselle Says:

    OMG - you need a {{{{HUG}}}}.

    You know, there are days when I think that a good old tribal ceremony passing one into adulthood, even if its dangerous, is safer than what we do. Most of what's on your list strikes me as attempts to buy your way into successful adulthood. Successful adults have a new car; therefore I must have new car. Adults own houses; I must have house. Successful adults perhaps have more than one house; let us buy another. In a sense, you might still be searching for it as you buy things that you don't know why you buy.

    Can I tell you something? Even with all your financial calamities, and even if you have nothing and are warming your hands in a garbage can fire - I think you are on your way to being a successful adult. I commend you on the improvements you are now making. Just one thing ....

    Your college daughter should also be cash flowing at least some of the money herself. Trips to the Bank of Mom and Dad beget more trips to the Bank of Mom and Dad.

  3. creditcardfree Says:

    The beauty of humans...we can change. Here's to a new adventure for you!

  4. HousingCounselor Says:

    Wow it seems that a lot of your past mistakes stems from cars. At least you are learning from them instead of repeating them. Most people live their whole lives and never get that revelation. Thanks for sharing.

  5. scrappytappy Says:

    Congratulations on unloading all of your past mistakes and learning from them. I have a huge list of embarrassing financial mistakes that I don't know if I'd be brave enough to list on here! Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

    Making positive changes now will make you feel better in the long run regardless of how long it took you to realize the mistakes you've made.

  6. Miz Pat Says:

    I so relate - my marriage was the biggest financial mistake of my life, and the biggest mistake of my life.

  7. Jerry Says:

    I applaud you for being so honest in this forum, as well as for sharing the tough lessons that these experiences have lead to over time. We all have our share of problems, and your willingness to share will offer insurance to others that their circumstances can be overcome with dedication and hard work!

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