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2 Huge Mistakes That Cost Me $4,000 In My Early 20s

Most 22-year-olds probably can’t say that they’ve graduated college debt-free, gotten married with no debt, have a full-time job with benefits and a partner with a full-time job, two paid off cars, and have the privilege of living with family to save money for a house down payment. I am very lucky that even though I came from a lower-middle-class family, my husband and I live a comfortable lifestyle and can sock away money to buy a house of our own.

However, even though it may seem on the surface that I have it all put together, from my excel sheet for our household budget to our growing savings account, money is something I am not always good at and something that I let stress me out. I have made countless money mistakes since I got my first job as a crew person at McDonald’s, but you learn and grow and read a Dave Ramsey book or two. So, here are two of my most recent big fat money mistakes that cost us about two thousand dollars each…

The First Mistake: Dropping an Entire College Semester

Last July, we got married. In August, I went job hunting to get a job in the HR field, which is what my degree is in (to no avail). I was bored because I no longer had a booked schedule; I worked full time, but I no longer went to school full time, and I was no longer planning a wedding. I thought that if I went back to school, it would fulfill me and better my chances of switching jobs down the line.

So, I enrolled in a full semester at the local community college. I had a whole plan worked out: just one semester at the CC to claim an associate of arts, then I would do the partnership program with Kent University to get a bachelor’s degree. Sounds reasonable. I had balanced full-time work and full-time school before and I wanted to be busy. My work offers tuition reimbursement, which means I would have to pay for the semester out of pocket but I’d be reimbursed 100% as soon as I sent in proof of grades and receipts.

The problem was, I wasn’t fully invested in my college plan. It didn’t fulfill me, it just stressed me out. I wasn’t used to having school full time anymore, I wasn’t interested in the classes, and I had gotten promoted in September, adding five hours of overtime to my workload each week. By October, I was burnt out. I already knew what I wanted, but I asked my husband how he’d feel if I dropped out of the semester.

Dropping the semester meant we would have to pay for it all out of pocket, and we couldn’t use my tuition reimbursement from work. It was too late in the semester to drop out and get a refund, but I didn’t think I’d even pass the classes if I made myself continue. We talked about it, and I dropped the semester. The only thing my husband said was, “Just try to think about it before you make a two-thousand-dollar mistake again.”

The Second Mistake: Investing in Inventory for a Sales Gig

Little did he know, my next 2k mistake was just about 7 months away. I won’t get specific with names, but let’s just say I was invited by my sister-in-law to a free “party” to try out new makeup and get a facial. First of all, I told myself, do not buy anything. You have everything you need already! But we all say that sometimes when we get invited to “free” things that won’t really be free…Like the time Josh and I sat through a three-and-a-half-hour sales pitch for a two-thousand-dollar vacuum (why is everything $2,000, and who would even buy a vacuum that expensive?), but that’s another story…

So, I go to the party, I end up buying some products, but I actually end up loving them and using them every day. It was a splurge, but I don’t regret that part. I don’t even regret that the consultant talked me into becoming a consultant myself. If I would have ordered just the lowest bundle of inventory they offer at $600, I wouldn’t have regretted that either, because believe it or not, $600 of this stuff is not much to move.

But I got talked into spending a whopping $1,800 on my first inventory order. I was roped in with talk of prizes, and qualifying for another level, and that customers love it when you have inventory on hand. That means that I bought $1,800 worth of product, with my own money, and in order to pay myself back and make any profit, I would need to sell it all and reorder more product. That is some pressure, and quite a daunting task.

What makes it even worse is that after my last mistake, and how strict I am about our personal budget, I didn’t tell my husband how much we were personally invested in this side gig. So I was down about $2,000 when it was all said and done, $600 of it on a new credit card, and I didn’t even tell my husband, because I didn’t want this to be a mistake.

Will I eventually be able to pay myself back, and maybe make some money off of this side gig? Probably. But it will take a long time and some hard work. I work 45 hours a week on an irregular schedule. I have commitments to my husband, family, and friends that come first. And then I can squeeze in a party or two, as long as I can find people who want to have parties, to potentially sell some of this product. So in the end, another two-thousand-dollar mistake.

The Future: Hopefully No More Big Mistakes

I have big goals and a small budget. Although we are lucky to both have full-time jobs and live rent-free, we still don’t make much money. We want to buy a house and have children. We want to be able to retire and enjoy life when we are older, not have to work until we can’t stand up, and worry there is too much life left but not enough money.

I have learned a lot from these two mistakes. Both times, I ignored my gut feeling, because I thought I was making a good decision. Both times I have regretted it. I know the basics of money management; I enjoy balancing our budget and setting savings goals. Now I just need to be in control of myself and remember that I am a human. No, I can’t be perfect, but I can avoid future mistakes as long as I take these two as lessons.

Emilie is a 22-year-old saving up to buy a house with her husband. She is an assistant manager at McDonald’s (it’s not as bad as it sounds!) and enjoys spending time with her friends and family, playing board games, and reading. She manages her family’s finances and loves budgeting and setting goals!   

Image via Unsplash

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  • One of the things I’ve learned about sticking to a budget is to think about major purchases, as in terms of investment. I always ask myself – is this spending money or investing money?
    Spending money is to trade money for a product or service that won’t give much of a financial ROI. However when you do spend money in, say, clothes, I always try to make the clothes worth the price.
    Investing money is to trade money for a product or a service that will give me money in the future.
    When I’m buying things or making big purchases, I always try to think about these questions and conclude if it is a good purchase or not!

  • LynnP2

    Sounds like a multi level marketing scheme, which is a good way to lose a LOT of money and to annoy all your friends. Please don’t let yourself get talked into buying even more inventory!

    • Wolf

      This.

      I find it really annoying, and even a breach of faith in our friendship, when a friend invites me to a “party” and it really is a sales event. This kind of thing makes me not want to hang out with that person anymore.