16 money mistakes to STOP making in 2016

The presents have all been unwrapped and the tree is starting to droop after a long Christmas season. Are you reflecting upon how quickly Christmas went by while fearing your January Visa bill?

I know. I used to be you. Christmas came with a cup of cheer and a sense of dread as I wondered just how I was going to pay it all off. But not anymore. For the past five years Jason and I have celebrated a debt free Christmas.

Hang around, this year I am going to be motivating you on your own debt free journey. But first I wanted to share 16 money mistakes we ALL should stop making in 2016.

And some of these apply to me. Just because we are a frugal family who insists on paying cash for everything doesn't mean we don't make money mistakes. We do. LOTS of them. But here are 16 things I think we could all benefit from if we just stop doing them.

1. Not making a budget.

If I had a dime for every time I got an email from a reader saying she or he just didn't know where to start I would be a very rich lady. These are hardworking people who are just in over their heads and want to stop living paycheck to paycheck.

My first question is. Do you have a budget and the answer is usually no. So let's start there. Make a budget.

2. Not planning for the unexpected.

Life happens. It just happens. So be a little prepared. You can't prepare for everything, but you can put away money for a rainy day, or even a flood.

3. Not having an emergency fund.

Your credit card is not a good backup plan. Unless you truly want to pay off your emergency at 17 percent interest, which is the national average. (Source)

4. Not meal planning.

Meal planning can save you thousands each year. I did the math and it saves our family about $1,600 a year!  It only takes a few minutes.

5. Only making the minimum payments

If you are in debt, the best way to stay there is to make just the minimum payments each month. I know it's hard to scrape together extra money, but if you want to truly beat this, now is the time to find extra sources of income.

6. Not understanding wants vs. needs

You need food, a place to live and a way to heat your home. But no one needs 14 gadgets and a $300 cell phone plan.

7. Not having a sinking fund

Our family has been saving to put a new roof on our home. This is something that we've had to do sooner than we expected. We needed to set up a short-term sinking fund for that.

Basically, this means you just take the funds you're going to need and divide by the amount of time you will be saving up and then put that much money away each month.

Example, if you know you're annual car insurance is $1,200 a year, then you would save $100 a month to pay for it.

8. Not balancing your checkbook

How many of you sit down and balance your checkbook each day or even each week? I know. It's the least fun thing ever. But it's important so you know where your money is going and you know how much you have left.

Unless you're using a cash envelope system (we don't) it's important to sit down and balance that ledger.

9. Not making financial goals

What is your long-term financial goal? Do you even have one? Mine is to fully fund our retirement each year, find some passive income streams and put some money toward our children's education.

It's important to sit down and develop a few goals and then create a plan of action.

10. Not setting savings goals

Just like it's important to set goals on how you will wisely spend your money, it's also important to set goals on how you will SAVE your money. Are you saving for a car? A vacation? A new baby? Whatever it is it's important to set a goal and put some steps in place.

11. Not talking to your spouse about money

Sigh. Guys, this one is HUGE. I talked about it just a couple weeks ago, how NOT talking about money is worse than fighting about money.

And a few of you reached out to me and asked how to talk to a spouse who won't acknowledge or engage. Honestly, I don't know the answer. I'm not an expert on money or marriage. But I will say to keep trying.

Your marriage is worth fighting for and as we all know finances are a leading cause in divorce. Keep talking. Keep trying.

12. Comparing your life to another person's

You know what leads to debt and unhappiness? Comparison. There is a famous saying "comparison is the thief of joy" and it's so true. 

As Rachel Cruz says "comparison will steal your joy and rob your paycheck." Don't buy into the middle class lie that you have to have new hardwood floors, high dollar furniture and brand name clothes. Don't bankrupt yourself putting your child in every activity because it's what all your friends and neighbors are doing.

Guess what? All your friends are probably strapped.

13. Giving into guilt

It's not just comparison that robs our paychecks, it's also guilt.

This is something that I have talked about at length- I feel like, as a mom, guilt can sabotage your budget. 

As parents we all want to make our kids happy. We want them to live in a perfect world and be perfect parents and sometimes, to make up for our shortcomings we use stuff. I am guilty of it. 

But gifts don't equal love. The last thing our children need is more stuff! 

We show our children we love them not by the quantity of stuff we buy them, but by the quality of time we spend with them. 

14. Not saving for retirement

If you're in the middle of paying off debt this might not be on your radar. And I know if you're a follower of Dave Ramsey, he says not to save for retirement while paying off debt.

I don't fully agree with that. I saw at least put in to your 401k what your company will match. If it's only 3% then put in 3% but do SOMETHING until you get your feet under you and you can do more.

15. Not being realistic

I think one of the main reasons budgets fail is because people are not always realistic. Your family spends more than $45 a month on groceries and you always go through WAY more toilet paper than you think.

It's important to be realistic in our budgets so we don't end up sabotaging ourselves.

16. Ignoring debt

Maybe this should have been number one. For a long time debt was like the man behind the curtain. We just ignored it. Pretended it wasn't there.

Have you ever seen kudzu? It's a weed that grows wild in the South where I live. It will take over everything. You see it on buildings, climbing up light poles. It will smother every plant and tree in it's path. Where we live they destroy the kudzu with fire. They literally burn it all out so it won't come back.

That's like debt. You have to hate it enough to light a fire in your life- to destroy it and make plan so it won't come back.

So what's your plan for 2016? Are you ready? You can do this.