“PF” Does Not Mean “Perfect Finances”

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My new roomate saw me in the kitchen the other day and said she was impressed with my cooking skills. When I asked if she cooked, she replied, “by necessity.”

“By necessity” is exactly how most of us learn to handle our finances. Very few people have been taken step-by-step through balancing a budget, reviewing a check book, tracking bills and managing a savings. Instead, we are expected to figure this out for ourselves. It is no wonder so many people fall into debt.

Invisible Money

There are a plethora of cooking shows on tv. Every cuisine, style, and cook time is shown with complete details and visual instructions of how to prepare each dish. Then you have personal finance, which is rarely mentioned on television.

When money is shown in the media, it is often because someone won or lost a large amount of it. Sitcom couples are rarely shown balancing their budget or saying they cannot afford something (without it being the joke of the episode). In fact, the only time money is usually discussed on television is during a credit card commercial.

Society in general tends to hush conversation about money. Salaries are never to be mentioned among friends, budgets are a boring topic, and no one wants to be the one who “can’t afford it” in the group.

As a child, money is invisible. It is not until your first job that money becomes relative and even then, it is merely disposable income as most 16 year olds live at home without many bills.

Without being taught how to handle money or given real life examples of proper budgeting, along with being surrounded by credit card companies, it is no surprise that we make financial mistakes!

You Have To Learn Somehow

We learn by making mistakes! This is okay! Since money is such a taboo topic, once someone is struggling with debt and finances, it is difficult to know where to go to find support. The only “support” I have heard advertised are the scammy “debt relief” commercials, which are clearly not very helpful. It is okay to admit your mistakes. All of us have made them! We all go over budget sometimes or forget to pay a bill until the day it is due. You cannot beat yourself up over that. There are numerous incredible stories online of people sharing their tales of conquering mountains of debt. It is possible to be debt-free.

Personal Finance

This is why “PF” stands for personal finance. We all have different values, priorities, wants and needs. Spend your money, intelligently, just the way you want to. What worked for one person’s debt elimination strategy may not work for you. This does not mean that you cannot be debt-free. This does not mean that you failed. It just means you need to try something different.

Once you have educated yourself financially, conquered your debt, and established a savings, it is now time to spread the word. Be more open about finances. If a social activity is over budget, speak up. If you have younger family members, teach them about money. Heck, the older family members could probably use a lesson too.

Readers, what was your very first financial mistake?


5 Comments

  1. Red says:

    Hm… I don’t really think I made any big financial blunders until my senior year of high school. In high school, I had part time jobs, but I used the money fairly wisely. I stocked up on school supplies and bought the clothes I liked, which isn’t as wise as investing all the money, but I was 16. So that’s not something I’d say I regret.

    But I do regret not having the foresight to do my first 2 years of college at a cheap community college. My friend A did that and saved thousands of dollars. Now she’s completing her bachelor’s at my university. So she’ll have a bachelor’s degree from the same college as me for about 3/4 of the cost! I really wish I had thought of that – and it would have necessitated me living at home, which is another of my financial regrets! (Dorms are not cheap!)

  2. Brendan says:

    Not paying my credit card in full. Now i do that every month and keep more of my hard earned money.

  3. I refinance my student loan into one of those programs where the payments changed every three years. I really did need lower payments at the early years – I was divorced and stretching every penny.

    Problem: at the end I had payments WAY higher than the maximum I was led to believe at signing. Supposedly they were not calculated correctly in early years. Bottom line: I got stung.

    That experience scared me away from taking an adjustable rate mortgage (when they were very trendy) to a fixed rate mortgage. Now THAT was a smart move!

  4. Echo says:

    Too many to mention here, but I’ll start with racking up student loan and credit card debt in school while I worked 30 hours a week AND owned my own house that my room mates were paying the mortgage on. How I managed to mess that situation up is beyond belief.

  5. leslie says:

    Thanks everyone for coming clean with your financial mistakes! I will add mine to this confessional as well.

    Out of college, I was hired as an independent contractor, which meant I had to pay for all of my own taxes. When tax time came, I had not put any money aside from this so I had to take out a loan (ugh!) to cover my taxes. That was definitely a terrible idea!

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