Life

‘That’s How They Get You!’ — All The Ways You’re Screwing Yourself Financially

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I always say I’m going to get my plane tickets home for Christmas early. “I’ll buy them this summer,” I think. “I’m not going to get screwed the way I was last year.” But then summer comes and goes. And then fall. And suddenly, it’s winter. Because every time I go to buy my tickets, there are a million other things that come up. Rent is due, the dog needs to go to the vet, an asteroid is hurtling towards Earth and only I can save humanity… you get the idea.

Every year, I put off buying a ticket as the prices steadily climb. And every December 14th, I finally have a panic attack and throw thousand dollar tickets on a credit card. Which I never pay down. So I get late fees on top of interest on top of late fees. It’s a super fun cycle.

The truth is, we’ve all been there in some form or another. It sucks to live pay check to pay check. Because there are endless ways we get screwed over by the system. We buy the single versions of things rather than saving money with bulk pricing (because we don’t have the immediate money for that option even if it means you save money over time). We have to miss early bird specials because we’re just barely scraping by. We’re late for car payments, and insurance payments, and student loan payments until our late fees are more than the original principal. Our credit blows so we get higher interest rates, and have to put down bigger deposits for basic things like gas and electricity. And then — God forbid — you have any health issues arise. Medical bills are insane and because we can’t afford the best insurance, we pay through the roof when bad things happen. One car accident (that isn’t even your fault!) and you can be out tens of thousands of dollars.

Truth be told, I cry about my lack of money AT LEAST once a week. But is it all everyone else’s fault? Probably not. Because even though it’s hard, I have made some really poor (get it?) decisions financially. So when it comes to being financially responsible and getting our shit together (even if the odds are stacked against us), there are plenty of ways we screw ourselves over by making stupid financial decisions. For example:

Taking Uber EVERYWHERE.

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Your vomit is going to really wipe the smile off this guys face.

It’s hard to remember a time that you couldn’t just open an app and almost instantly have a car to your door. It’s so easy. And that’s the problem. When we simply press a button, and a car comes, we don’t think about the amount of money we’re spending. Even when it’s (gulp) surge pricing, you can often take rides that are only five or ten dollars. So you don’t think about how much is coming out of your checking account. Until it all adds up. And boy, does it add up. But who needs to eat, right?

Using food apps instead of cooking.

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Look! All those words on the box make a sentence: “You are never going to own a house.”

I am so, so guilty of this. Apps really are both a blessing and a HUGE curse. They make it so easy to order things without really thinking about what you’re paying. And with chicken tikka masala RIGHT at your fingertips, why would you make yourself a boring cheapo meal? I spend more money than I’d like to admit ordering take out because, “I deserve a treat.”

Taking out the maximum student loan to pay extra bills while in grad school.

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“Wait so you’ll just GIVE me 100 thousand dollars, no catch?”

“Well, you have to pay it back at insanely high interest rates in five years so you might want to –”

“I’ll take it!”

This is a hard one, and one that I’ve been talked into. You go to grad school and you can take OVER the loan amount you (actually) need for classes. And it’s really, really appealing. You need to live on something. Why not a loan? You’re in school, and even if you work as well, you can’t possibly put in all the hours into school that you need if you’re working full time. So you take the money, and it seems like you won’t have to pay it back forever. Besides you’ll be a famous photographer/actor/clown by then (you convince yourself). You’ll be able to pay it back NO PROBLEM, you think. It feels like free money at the time.

But you always have to pay the piper. And that grace period is up WAY faster than you it takes for your novel to sell. And you’re still poor, but now you’re also $100K in debt.

Being tricked by free trials. And then never cancelling them.

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“My children’s children’s children will pay for this Audible.com account someday.”

I have started a thousand of these for the stupidest reasons. Why yes, I’d LOVE to photoshop my cat’s head on Leonardo DiCaprio’s body. I’ll just get this free two week trial and cancel it after I finish! New Flash: You never ever cancel the free trial. They know it, you know it. And the only way you’re getting out of that sucker is when you lose your wallet (while blacked out one night) and have to cancel all your credit cards. So good for you? You only paid for three years of that dumb app you totally didn’t need….

Never returning that outfit you bought online (which totally doesn’t fit you).

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As long as I never eat again, THESE FIT JUST FINE.

How many things are sitting in your closet right now because they looked super great online and TERRIBLE on you in person? And I always tell myself, “It’s on sale! Plus if I don’t like it, I’ll just send it back.”

No I won’t. That would involve packaging and tape and maybe stamps and a trip to UPS. A whole lot of things I’m never going to do. That lovely silk shirt that makes me look like a puffy balloon animal isn’t going annnnywhere. Except maybe the bottom of my closet. Forever.

Opening credit cards for store discounts.

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“So you’re saying all I have to do is ruin my credit forever and I’ll get seven dollars off these oddly fitting pants? Sounds like a win.”

I know, I know. 20 percent off sounds reeeally good in the moment. But that 20 bucks you save is going to be NOTHING compared to the late fees you will pay when you inevitably forget that you took out a credit card in the first place. And you will forget. Believe me.

Living in an apartment above your means.

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They say youre supposed to spend 90 percent of your paycheck on rent, right? RIGHT?

This one is really tough because many of us live in extremely expensive cities. And what are we supposed to do, move back to Wisconsin? (Don’t get me wrong– I love Wisconsin, but it’s not where my life is now). So we pay ridiculous amounts in rent each month and hope desperately that we will someday make enough money where we can spend even more money in rent we can’t afford. And it’s another terrible cycle.

So we don’t save anything, and we live pay check to pay check. And we continue to take out loans, and forget to pay our credit cards, and don’t send poorly fitting clothes back. And we know, in our hearts, that things need to change. We need to be more responsible. We need to save money, and change our habits! And we will! Tomorrow. But now (that I’ve thoroughly depressed myself), I think I’ll order some take out. I deserve it.

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