In August, we asked our readers to tell us about their biggest financial regrets—and how they plan to avoid falling into the same bad situations again.
The regrets varied widely, from taking on too much student loan debt to spending mindlessly to sinking deep into credit card debt (sometimes more than once!). But we’re inspired by your dedication to taking control of your finances, and we want to thank everyone who shared their stories.
Congratulations to the winner of the August Money Lessons Learned Challenge: Megan from Springfield, Illinois! She’ll receive $250 to put toward her financial goals. Check out Megan’s regret—and resolution—below:
“My biggest financial regret is simply not living with restraint. When I was growing up, my family did not make good money decisions—nor did they teach me to do so myself.
“We always had extended family to bail us out of tight financial spots—so as a young adult, I honestly felt that the financial consequences of my actions didn’t matter; something or someone would always make it right. I also made the critical mistake of thinking that just because I’d been approved for credit, I could afford to use it.
“As a result, I spent unwisely, racked up debt without a second thought and never worried about it. Now I’m almost 40, and although I’m much better at making financial decisions, I’m literally still paying for things like a $300 stereo system I bought when I was 21 years old … with a credit card I shouldn’t have had.
“Now, I work hard every day to try to think logically and not emotionally about purchases that I make. When shopping, I always stop before I get to the checkout lane and take at least one thing out of my cart.
“I’ve also made sure that, in my household, we have open and honest discussions about money. We’ve tried hard to make sure that our kids (a 13-year-old boy and two girls, ages 6 and 16) understand the connection between money and hard work. Our teenagers work around the house or, when they’re old enough, they take outside jobs to pay for the ‘extras,’ like special summer camps and car payments.
“One of our house rules is that we don’t give the kids loans for impulse purchases. If they don’t have money at the time, we require them to wait until the next time they can make a withdrawal from the bank. This gives them time to think about their purchases, and the vast majority of the time they have either forgotten about it by the end of the day or decided that they don’t even want it!
“I know we’re doing something right because, just yesterday, we got a bunch of restaurant coupons in the mail. I was throwing them away and my 16-year-old stopped me and said, ‘Mom! Don’t throw those away—I can use them to help pay for lunch.’ ”
Thank you, Megan!
Is there a financial lesson you wish you’d been taught in school? Maybe one that you’ve since learned the hard way? If so, look out for next month’s challenge!