9 Ways You Sabotage Your Financial Growth

By Mikey Rox on 12 May 2017 0 comments

I'm a take-responsibility-for-your-actions kind of guy, which is why I don't have a problem telling you that most of your financial problems are self-inflicted. Yes, we all get the short end of the stick sometimes, and extenuating circumstances compromise our bank accounts now and then. But by and large, if you're constantly lamenting you never have enough money or can't get ahead, well — you're probably sabotaging your own financial progress in one of these ways.

1. Lifestyle inflation

Mo' money, mo' problems. It's not just a song from Biggie, it's also an accurate reflection on how increased income doesn't necessarily improve your financial situation. If you're not careful, often as your wallet grows, so does how much you spend.

"When you receive a raise, it's challenging not to make upgrades to your belongings since you can afford to do so," says Coupon Sherpa saving expert Kendal Perez. "However, lifestyle inflation sabotages your financial goals in that you won't actually be richer; instead, your toys and debts will be more expensive, and you'll stay at the same level or be even worse off than you were before the increase." (See also: How One Nice Thing Can Ruin Your Whole Budget)

2. Refusal to sacrifice

As much as you want it all, sometimes that's just not possible — especially if the effort is making you broke. In that case, you need to step back, figure out what's most important to you, and sacrifice what you can live without. For example, if you're holding on to that fancy, expensive car despite barely making the payments, while other bills are also suffering, it's time to re-evaluate. That vehicle may be fun to drive, but it's probably not so awesome to live in.

3. Avoiding your financial fears

Managing your money can be intimidating. Unfortunately, brushing your money issues to the side won't make them go away. In fact, it will only exacerbate the problem, which will return with a vengeance if you disregard them for too long.

"We make excuse after excuse to avoid our fears, including not tackling our finances because numbers can seem scary," says Natasha Rachel Smith, personal finance expert at TopCashback. "Pluck up the courage to make time for and respect money; it will then respect you back and you'll be in control of it rather than it being in control of you."

It's not just managing your finances on a basic level, though. Your fear of money is probably preventing you from making smart investments that can improve your overall financial outlook.

"Fear of investing, or fear of new-tech options like high-yield online bank accounts, reduces the potential for financial growth," she says. "Knowledge is power, so educating yourself on those financial topics that scare you is the first and most important step toward overcoming that fear."

4. Relying on future success

I've heard it plenty of times before, and I've even said it myself: "I don't need to worry about my finances right now. I'm young; in a few years I'll have a good job and I can start thinking about things then." And then, BAM! Suddenly you're in your mid-30s trying to buy a house, catching up on a 401(k), supporting a kid or two, and kicking yourself in your own behind.

Millennial finance expert Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together, wants you to cut that out.

"People use youth combined with a delusional idea of future success as an excuse far too often," she says. "You shouldn't buck healthy financial habits, like saving and investing in a 401(k) today, just because you think you'll be earning $200,000 by 35. There are no guarantees about your future, but you can control today's behaviors and set yourself up for a comfortable life."

5. Letting inertia keep you loyal

Ask anybody why they stay with their banking institution, and they'll likely tell you that it's a hassle to change. Is that how you'd respond? That mentality can cost you.

Money expert Michelle Hutchinson explains.

"Financial providers devise a number of incentives to keep you loyal to their services, but sometimes it makes sense financially to make a switch. Despite this, many Americans will stay with the same providers for years due to it being perceived as a hassle or little value to switch," she says. "Set a calendar reminder every six to 12 months to review your current banking, credit card, insurance, and loan providers to ensure you're getting the best deal."

6. Not planning for emergencies

One of the biggest mistakes people make is not being financially prepared for an emergency. If you don't have the money set aside to deal with a job loss, blown transmission, or other costly problem, you could be looking at a long road of debt, disappointment, and even depression. Find places in your budget where you can set some money aside each month, and get to it. Don't be caught off guard when your next emergency hits. (See also: A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your Emergency Fund)

7. Just wingin' it

Just want to let things happen because you're laid-back and easygoing and everything will work out in the end? Snap out of it, stupid. That's not how the world works. It is, however, how permanent unemployment and homelessness work.

"Winging it just doesn't work," says Wayne Bland, retirement plan adviser at Metro Retirement Plan in Charlotte, N.C. "Every client that I work with that has a good grasp of their financial situation has some type of plan. It may be a basic budget scribbled on a napkin or a full professionally prepared plan. The common denominator is that they all have some document to provide a measure of direction. Knowing what you hope to achieve financially in the near and far will help you decide how to save, spend, and invest."

8. Spending while emotional

Admittedly, I enjoy a good bit of retail therapy. Until the bill comes and I'm like, guess it's potato chip sandwiches for the rest of the month.

"The phrases 'treat yo'self' and 'retail therapy' speak to the instant gratification associated with spending money when you're feeling down," explains Perez. "However, making purchases when you're having a hard time is neither an emotionally nor financially sound way to manage your problems." (See also: The High Cost of the "Treat Yourself" Mindset)

If you tend to spend money when you're stressed, upset, bored, or down, there are ways you can avoid the temptation. Unsubscribe from retail mailing and catalog lists and steer clear of the mall. If you find yourself really wanting an item, make yourself wait 24 hours before buying it. You might be surprised to find the "want" diminishes simply by waiting out the impulse.

Finally, consider a hobby or alternative activity you can turn to in times of stress. Even something as simple as going for a walk can greatly improve your mood.

9. Not seeking help

It's not easy to talk about money woes — I understand that just as well as you do — but sometimes it's important to ask for help. If you have a family member or friend who's an expert in finance, maybe they can help you. If you don't want to let them in on your situation, consider consulting a professional that will help you improve and strengthen your problem areas with actionable advice. Help is out there; if you're in financial trouble, seek it. Don't wait until it's too late.

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