Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Save Money: Looking to Save vs. Looking to Spend

I have a good friend who has difficulty when it comes to her finances. She was raised on credit cards, which means she has mountains of debt, poor credit and no savings. Not a good situation for a couple in their 30's with a young child. However, when that is how you were raised, that is the only way you know how to manage your finances (if you want to call it manage).

Given her situation, she still does not understand that she needs to save and not spend. She is an extremely caring, giving person who is always looking for ways to spend. I don't think she does it consciously, but she does it nonetheless. Here's an example, we meet up for dinner or lunch at least every month. Without fail, she will show up with a "gift" for me, a book, card or other token. It's a very sweet gesture, but it makes me crazy since I know her financial background.

I think being frugal is an attitude, a mindset. Based on my friend's attitude and past experience, here's a brief list of what not to do:
  • Don't treat spending and shopping as a hobby, something you do when you're bored.
  • Don't live on credit cards. If you can't pay for an item with cash, chances are, you can't afford it.
  • Don't treat your home equity as a windfall. This is not "free" money. You have to pay it back, and you have to pay interest.
  • Don't cash out your 401K, thinking you will pay back the account at some point. You won't.
  • Don't "borrow" from your children's bank accounts or from your family and/or friends. Chances are, if you're in a situation where you need to borrow from someone other than a bank, you will not pay them back.
  • Don't live with blinders on. Be prepared or have a Plan B. Do you have a plan if you have a major unexpected expense or you lose your job?
Do you know someome like this? Are there other bad habits that should be avoided?

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