8 Financial Wake Up Calls — And How to Deal With Them


Can't seem to get a handle on your finances? That in itself is a wake up call that you need to be doing things differently. Here are eight more.

1. You Use Personal Credit Cards for More Than One-Off Expenses

Some personal finance experts recommend automated billing for recurring expenses, but I don't usually suggest it since I like to be in control of when and where my money goes. But charging expenses to your credit card on a regular basis is a different story. Credit cards should be used for one-off expenses that you'll pay off quickly, not month-to-month bills that can rapidly pile up without being paid.

"Credit card companies work hard to make their cards not feel like a personal loan with an abhorrent interest rate, but that's what they are for a lot of people," says money-saving expert Mike Catania. "Once regular consumers start putting recurring expenses onto the cards and not paying them off fully on the due date, it's time to re-evaluate the financial picture."

If this is something you do or have done in the past, switch to automated billing linked to your debit card. You'll need to commit to being financially responsible — like, all the time — to ensure that you can cover the funds during the fund extraction period. It'll require a change on your part, but it's not the worst habit you can pick up.

2. You're Constantly Complaining That You Never Have Enough Money

I know way too many people who complain that they're always broke, and my first question is, "Why?" If this sounds familiar, it's time to ask yourself that question — seriously. In most cases, there are two common answers: One, you're spending too much money on frivolous things, and two, you're not making enough money because you're spending too much time spending money on frivolous things.

Follow me?

To change that scenario, curb your spending. You don't need all those new things, and you shouldn't be in bars and restaurants every night of the week. Also, consider getting a second job. I recently started driving with Lyft to help curb my own Friday and Saturday night habit of going out with my friends and spending dough. So I'm not just sitting at home bored, I thought it would be helpful to find something fun to do that also will pay me — because I like money way more than the feeling of not having enough of it.

3. You've Been Drowning in Debt for Most of Your Adult Life

Nobody is going to shake a finger at you because you made a few (or more than a few) financial missteps in your 20s. We've all been there, and we've all racked up debt. But if that black cloud has followed you into your 30s or even 40s, you need to re-evaluate your entire life philosophy.

Some debt is unavoidable, of course. I consider school loans and home mortgages "good" debt because they're investments, but if you've got credit card bills coming out the wazoo because you like to spend money, it's time to forget the Joneses and get back to reality. You may need an additional source of income to address the debt — which I'll cover below — but you need to do whatever's necessary to get out of the hole you dug, stat.

4. You're Well Into Your 30s And You Haven't Started Saving for Retirement

Times aren't like they used to be, and many young professionals don't have the extra money to start building their retirement funds. But, I must advise you to find that extra few bucks a month to put toward a 401K or other retirement-savings account, and take advantage of matching dollars from your employer if they're available. You may not be able to max out contributions right away, but that's okay — you've got to start somewhere. If you don't, you'll be middle-aged before you know it and fretting that you won't be able to survive retirement — or worse, not able to retire at all.

5. You Skip Contributions to Your Savings Accounts for Months in a Row

If you haven't made contributions to your savings account for several months in a row, something's wrong. Maybe you've had unexpected expenses pop up, or maybe you just haven't been as responsible with your money as you're supposed to be. Whatever the case, the fun's over; it's time to get back on track. Take a deeper look at where your money is going and see what you can pull from to put a little back in your savings account. Maybe it's canceling an entertainment service or it could be skipping the coffee house or lunches out during the week. Whatever you would've spent on those little luxuries, send that amount to your savings account to start building it back up dollar by dollar.

6. You Only Have One Source of Income

I touched on this point earlier, so let's get down to it.

One of my financial life philosophies is to always have more than one source of income. Personally, I have about four income sources — some bring in more than others, but they all contribute to the "pot." I don't need all of these revenue streams to survive, I could live without one or two of them, but I don't want to. I don't want to, because that extra one or two help me add to my savings, pay for life's little luxuries and experiences, and cover unexpected expenses when they arise. Without them, I would have to dip into my regular income, which would then take away from my savings and other running funds I keep, which in turn could lead to a dangerous debt situation if I'm not careful.

There are absolutely no downsides to having two sources of income or more, and not a single person has ever said how frustrated or stressed they are because all their bills are paid with money to spare. No one. Ever.

7. You Keep Track of Expenses by Browsing Your Checking Account Online

I see this way too much with 20 and even 30-somethings who monitor and manage their finances by simply browsing their online checking and savings accounts. Sure, peeking at your accounts on a regular basis is good practice, but that's not enough. You really ought to have a formal budget established (a spreadsheet is an ideal solution for this) that details your monthly expenses and what's coming in and going out. Yeeees, it requires some effort on your part — at least more than logging into your banking app with Touch ID — but it's well worth it to avoid teetering on the edge of overdraft all the time.

8. You Spend Until There's Just Enough Left to Avoid Overdrafting

Speaking of teetering on the edge of overdraft, stop doing it! There's no reasonable explanation that you're spending money until you're within a few dollars or cents of being slapped with an overdraft fee.

You know why? Because you can't afford it! You have zero dollars in your account at that point, which means you messed up somewhere. If you couldn't afford whatever sent you over the edge, you can't afford the hefty overdraft fees, either.

To avoid this situation, here are my tips: When you see that thing at the store that you have to have, walk away. When you want to order that pizza because you're hung over or too lazy to cook dinner, get up off your butt and recognize that this exact scenario might be why you're broke in the first place. When your friends ask if you want to go out and you see that you only have $20 left in your account, just…say…no! You're allowed to do that, ya know, and nobody will stop being buddies with you and the world won't end. I promise. Instead, spend that time to reflect on why you have $20 to your name (seriously, think about that long and hard) and how you can change that. I've offered a few tips here already. The time is now.

Are you avoiding any of these — or other — financial wake-up calls?

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