This article was published in the New Haven Register on January 6, 2019.
In my last column I recommended some sensible financial resolutions to make for the new year. Now that New Year’s Day has passed, let’s talk about common pitfalls that can derail your ability to fulfill those resolutions.
A quick reminder: I suggested resolving this year to banish debt, pay yourself first (i.e. set aside savings and investments before paying other expenses), build an emergency fund, and stick to a budget.
As part of its “Tenth Annual New Year Resolutions Study,” Fidelity Investments included a section outlining the most common mistakes people made in 2018 that led to problems sticking to their financial resolutions. Based on a telephone survey of 2,005 adults, the most frequent pitfalls were:
Dining out too much (28 percent of respondents). Nearly one in three respondents said they spent more money than they had planned to in restaurants. You can not only save money by cooking at home more often, it’s more healthful, too!
Splurging on a luxury item (19 percent). Nearly one in five respondents gave in to the temptation to buy something outside their budget. When you see that glittering object in the window or on your computer screen, you need to weigh the pleasure of possessing it against the pleasure of seeing your financial goals fulfilled this time next year.
Failed to return unwanted purchases (18 percent). Online shopping makes it easier than ever to buy on impulse, and quite often the item that shows up on your front porch doesn’t turn out to be something you really want. Rather than let it gather dust in a closet, take the trouble to send it back for a refund.
Paid for unused services (18 percent). With everyone migrating to online apps and streaming music and video services, the problem of continuing to pay for unused subscriptions has multiplied. In the old days you may have continued paying for an unused gym membership and a magazine that you no longer read. Today you have to guard against those pitfalls as well as streaming media services and subscription retail boxes you don’t really use.
Overpaid various fees (18 percent). You have to be diligent in weeding out unnecessarily high fees for items such as ATM withdrawals, bank accounts, credit card interest and late payments. These fees can add up to a significant amount of money over a year’s time.
Took a vacation they couldn’t afford (5 percent). Closely related to buying a luxury item, the temptation to take an expensive vacation can be difficult to resist. After all, you work hard and you need some downtime, right? However, you can take time off without busting your budget. Consider a trip closer to home. Stay with relatives for free. Or just relax at home without the stress of working!
(Note the percentages add up to more than 100 percent because respondents could cite more than one mistake.)
Interestingly, none of these self-inflicted budget-busters was related to the fears people expressed going into 2019, a list similar to last year’s: 50 percent cited unexpected expenses, 47 percent cited rising health-care costs, and 43 percent cited the economy.
Be careful to watch out for the little things that can add up. In the words of Ben Franklin, “ A small leak will sink a great ship”.
Eric Tashlein is a Certified Financial Planner professional and founding Principal of Connecticut Capital Management Group LLC, 2 Schooner Lane, Suite 1-12, in Milford. He can be reached at 203-877-1520 or through www.connecticutcapital.com. This is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as personalized investment advice or legal/tax advice. Please consult your advisor/attorney/tax advisor. Registered Representative, Securities offered through Cambridge Investment Research Inc., a Broker/Dealer, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment Advisor Representative, Cambridge Investment Research Advisors Inc., A Registered Investment Advisor. Cambridge Investment Research Inc., and Connecticut Capital Management Group LLC are not affiliated.