Small financial mistakes can add up.
As a personal finance writer, I work hard to make smart decisions when managing my money. Of course, no one is ever perfect when it comes to financial decisions.
In fact, last year I made three silly mistakes that ended up costing me quite a bit of cash. While none were catastrophic, they were easily avoidable, and I lost out on over $350 because of them. Here’s what they were.
1. Not switching my credit card right away when my spending patterns changed
Obviously, 2020 was an unusual year for me — and for most people — as COVID-19 changed the world and altered my spending habits dramatically.
Normally, we spend a lot of money on dining out and traveling. But last year we abandoned those activities completely starting in March. Instead we switched to buying a lot more groceries and making tons more purchases online rather than in stores.
Unfortunately, I didn’t react quickly to this change (naively assuming or hoping it would be short-term). Instead, for most of the year, I kept using the credit card that had long been my favorite. This meant my spending patterns were no longer a good match for my card, which offered bonus rewards for travel and dining out but paid a paltry sum for groceries and online purchases.
Had I switched my card earlier to one better suited to my current needs, I could’ve ended the year with a lot more credit card rewards than I actually earned. Since we put everything on our card, I lost out on just over $200 worth of rewards due to my mistake.
2. Forgetting to ask for a waiver of my credit card’s annual fee
Speaking of credit card mistakes, I also made another one. I forgot to call my card issuer and ask them to waive the $95 annual fee that I’m charged for one of my cards.
Every year, I make this call shortly before the card renews, and I’ve been able to avoid paying the card’s annual cost. (Sometimes, I’ve had to call back more than once but I always prevail in the end.)
Since I didn’t make the call on time this year, I ended up costing myself almost $100 just because of my forgetfulness. While I did try to call after the fact and ask them to retroactively waive the fee, I’d lost any leverage I might have had by threatening to cancel if they didn’t act. They obviously had no reason to give me back the money I’d already been charged, so they didn’t do it.
3. Not canceling swim lessons for my son
My son was signed up for swim lessons with auto-renewal each month, but I needed to cancel them because we were leaving the state (we split our time between Pennsylvania and Florida).
Unfortunately, I forgot to provide the two required weeks notice to cancel the lessons. As a result, I had to pay for two weeks of classes that we couldn’t attend (this was pre-pandemic, when classes weren’t canceled and refunds weren’t given for changes). At $26 per week, this mistake cost me just over $50.
While none of these errors will damage my finances long term, there are much better things I could have done with the $350-plus that they ended up costing me. They were unnecessary mistakes caused by carelessness on my part.
And while I know that I can’t always be perfect, I’m hoping to keep better track of my finances this year so I don’t end up with similar snafus in 2021.