Because being ‘good’ with money can seem like an abstract concept, it can be easy to get off course when we think we’re on track. Sometimes, advice that we’re given in good faith can end up causing more harm than good.
Here are 6 counterintuitive signs that you aren’t as good with money as you may think you are.
1. You're missing out on free money.
Congratulations! You diligently contribute money from each paycheck into your savings account, so you feel like you have a solid handle on your finances. However, your money could be working harder for you. While traditional savings accounts may earn you around .01 percent interest on your money, high interest savings accounts can earn over 2 percent! If you aren’t contributing at least a portion of your earnings into a high interest savings account, you’re turning down free money.
2. You reach for your debit card instead of your credit card.
Using a credit card for everything can seem extremely counterintuitive, but as long as you avoid spending more than you have in your checking account, using a credit card can actually earn you airline points or cash rewards. Spending less than the amount of money that you have in checking also enables you to pay your bill off in full, which offers a boost to your credit score. This works especially well if you’re able to automate your bills each month with your card, because you would have to spend money on these things anyway.
3. You only make minimum payments.
While it can be tempting to pat yourself on the back for paying something toward your outstanding debts each month, you could be missing out on opportunity to be even more money smart. If you owe a large debt, like a student loan, pay off more than the minimum if you are able, and save yourself hundreds (potentially thousands) of dollars in the future.
4. You let international travel cost too much.
If you travel internationally, many banks charge additional fees for taking out money overseas or making foreign transactions. However, many airline cards do not have this policy, so if you frequently venture abroad, getting an airline credit card may help you save big.
5. You don’t track your spending manually.
Staying on top of exactly where your money goes can have one of the biggest impacts on your spending habits. Just being aware that anything you spend your money on will have to be accounted for later can motivate you to curb senselessly splurging. Reviewing each expense and entering it into a spreadsheet can also help you detect cases of fraud early on.
6. You don’t have specific savings goals.
Putting money into a savings account for no reason means that you aren’t concretely thinking about for what you’re saving specifically. It can also feel more gratifying to see exactly how close you are to having enough money for your trip to Venice in 6 months, or for the house downpayment that you plan to have in 15 years.
This is also where tracking your spending comes in handy—after reviewing how much you need to live on for six months, you can have a concrete number in mind regarding how much money you need to have in an emergency fund.
Kayla Heisler is an essayist and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. She is a contributing writer for Color My Bubble. Her work appears in New York's Best Emerging Poets 2017 anthology.