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I'm sure mostly all of you have heard the phrase, "If I had known then what I know now". This phrase can be applied to many areas of your life but being that this is a personal finance blog, I am only talking about how it applies to your money.

While sitting in traffic the other day, I had plenty of time to think about this. What would my financial life look like had I made better financial decisions in my past? I know you can't change the past but you can certainly change the future.

I thought about all of the bad financial decisions I'd made in my past and thought it would be a good idea to make a list.

Some of the decisions I've made in my past that I regret are:
  • Student Loans. There is no doubt that I would not have been able to attend college without taking out student loans. The government was very generous when it came to giving me money for college. They not only gave me money for tuition and books but they also gave me money to live on. I wish that I had not taken the maximum amount of aid that I was given and maybe I would not owe a small fortune in student loans right now. I did not put the extra money to good use and can't even remember how much I spent on "liquid" entertainment.

  • Cars. I had to have a new car. I bought my first new car my senior year in college and then bought a new one every two years after that. I never put any money down and rolled in the negative equity into my next purchase. I bought my last new car in 2006 and paid it off in full this year. I plan to keep this car until the wheels fall off. If I do buy a car prior to the wheels falling off, I plan to save and pay cash. I've gotten a taste of what it's like to not have a car payment and I don't want to be chained to an automobile finance company again.

  • Credit Cards. If I could only get back 10% of the finance charges I've paid to the credit card companies, I could probably payoff my student loans. Now that I've finally paid them off, any purchases made on my credit cards is promptly paid in full the next month.

  • Keeping up with the Joneses. If I had not tried to keep up with everyone else, I probably would not have taken on as much debt as I did. I was trying to live like people who were in a much better financial position than me. Alot of my friends in college were living off of Daddy's money. I didn't have that so I was living off of Citibank's money.
I can't change the past but I am certainly changing the future. If I had known then what I know now, my financial picture would be much, much better. My net worth would probably be over six figures.

If you are just starting out in your finances, don't make the same financial mistakes I made. Don't try and live like the Joneses. Your self worth is not determined by "things". I can't remember where I heard the saying but someone once said, "Once you have self worth, you can have net worth".

Resolve to repair your budget

11 comments

  1. Anonymous // July 14, 2008 at 1:27 PM  

    Excellent post. I've made most of the mistakes on your list. I would also like to add "Financing vacations on credit cards."

  2. J. Money // July 14, 2008 at 1:57 PM  

    Amen brother - wise lessons from those lived and learned ;) If only you could email them to each and every high school and college student.

    Or better yet, have a class that actually *dare i say it* TEACH personal finance! OH my.

  3. Tony // July 14, 2008 at 11:41 PM  
    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
  4. hank // July 14, 2008 at 11:48 PM  

    no kidding on the student loans... I took them because I didn't have another choice, but looking back, I MAY have. I just took as much as they told me to without actually looking into what I was actually getting... hmmmm

  5. Dawn // July 15, 2008 at 10:53 AM  

    I agree with all of these. I would add to this - saving more when I had extra money. A few years back I was doing very well financially - I wish I had saved more then.

  6. zachyounkin // July 15, 2008 at 4:20 PM  

    You have an amazing blog. As an incoming freshman, looking at financing my college, what do you recommend I do instead of loans?

    I promise to live off of my own money, not off of anyone else's!!

    You are great!

    Zach

  7. SingleGuyMoney // July 15, 2008 at 8:02 PM  

    @jmoney: Yeah, a PF course would be great for h.s. kids.

    @dawn: That's a great thing to add to the list. I wish I'd saved some of my student loan money.

    @zach: I'm not against student loans, I just think you should only take what you need and not as much as they will give you...and thanks so much for reading the blog. Glad you like it.

  8. Frugal Bachelor // July 15, 2008 at 10:28 PM  

    Relax .. I made most of the same mistakes too, but I don't really regret them. I've moved on, and looking forward to bright future. I can kick myself also for not getting into Google IPO (or not buying oil futures when it was $30) but in the end it's only money, and who was I to know?

    You're young & you lived and learned. Your rich college buddies still have yet to get there, will have some sort of mid-life crisis and blow everything on a gambling addiction, while you are quietly building up a humungous nest egg.

    Take it easy, bro .. your future is bright.

  9. Greener Pastures // July 16, 2008 at 1:53 PM  

    I think it's always easy to beat yourself up over stuff like this. Hindsight is 20/20, as they say. How great it is that you're aware now!

    Lisa

  10. Broke Grad Student // July 17, 2008 at 12:17 AM  

    I made the same mistake with my student loans. While I don't regret traveling abroad, I should have gotten a job to cover the cost of my trip instead of using extra loan money.

  11. Anonymous // July 22, 2008 at 10:55 AM  

    Yes. As far as keeping up with the Joneses, the best method I've ever found for avoiding that one is to put all of the things I think I want on a mental wish list (use paper if it helps). It makes me think about all of the things that are competing for my money. I buy some of them, after I figure out which ones I really want. The few really big ones I've spent my money on have spent years waiting on that list.