If you’re relying on help from others because your bank balance displays zero (or close to) more often than you’d like to admit, this list is for you.

You might be tired of your roommate and looking to move out. You might be fed up with public transport and planning to buy a car. You might be overworked and dreaming of holiday destinations for the year ahead.

Whatever the situation, if things like this keep getting pushed back because they’re out of reach financially, here are some possible reasons why. 

Going without a budget

I know! If I heard one more person say, ‘write yourself a budget’, I’d slap myself too, but have you ever done it? Someone suggested I do this when I started my first job and while it’s one of those done-to-death money tips, it was still one of the best things I ever did.

It doesn’t have to be technical either. Just get a piece of paper, draw up three columns and jot down the following:

  • Your income (think salary/wages or any financial benefits you get)
  • Your expenses (think rent/mortgage, transport and what you pay in bills and repayments)
  • Your luxury items (think streaming services, home delivery, new threads and nights out).

This exercise will help you suss out where there’s room for movement and where you could be cutting back. Side note, I did this again recently and what I spent on fast food during lockdown scared me more than how many cheeseburgers I’d eaten.

Using your credit card for everything

Each month, if you don’t pay back what you owe in full, interest is generally payable on your credit card - and that includes when you only pay the minimum amount owing.

Yeah, you may know that already, but do you know that the interest rates on credit cards are often a lot higher than other forms of borrowing? That means you could end up paying back a whole lot more than what you initially borrowed. So, if you can, pay in full and always know what interest rate or fees your lender is charging you.

Keeping up with the Kardashians

Oh, please no! But I get it. The pressure to stay up to date with your peers and celebrity icons can be a subconscious, yet real motivation behind a number of poor financial decisions. I’m talking Gucci sneakers you can’t afford, the latest smartphone when your existing phone works fine and a face that may no longer resemble your own.

Try to live within your means, stick to realistic goals and when you’re looking to make a purchase, ask yourself if it’s something you really need, or if it’s something you simply want this week. At least try to buy it on sale if you have to.

Borrowing money from those nearest and dearest

When you’re in a bind, while you may be tempted to ask your folks or bestie for a cash hand-out, remember doing that can put strain on any relationship, particularly if it’s becoming a regular thing.

The person may need that money back before you can pay them. They might also begin judging your spending habits, or worse, cut you off if they don’t get the money back on time, or at all.

Buying a pricey car

The purchase price of a new car is one thing, but remember you’ll also need to factor in added costs, such as insurance, rego, petrol and regular servicing.

On top of that, research shows that 2.7 million Aussies also have a car loan1, which means paying interest on top of the purchase price may need to be considered too. 

Forking out for degrees and diplomas without a career plan

While it’s certainly possible that tertiary qualifications could increase your employment opportunities and potentially help you earn more money over the course of your career, it’s also not guaranteed.

With that in mind, it’s worth asking yourself whether the field you want to enter requires tertiary qualifications. If you can get where you want through alternative routes, these may be worth exploring. After all, the average amount of outstanding debt for a tertiary student in Australia is around $23,280, with the average time taken to repay this debt taking a little more than nine years2.

Quitting your job after a bad day

You may not like where you work, but if you’re planning your exit march, it’s wise to have another gig lined up, as it could be months before you find another opportunity and have cash coming in again.

If it’s your current pay cheque that you’re not happy with, consider whether you've earned a pay rise and how you might go about asking for one.

Not prioritising what you really want to do in life

The benefits of thinking ahead when it comes to what you want are pretty clear. For instance, buying a car, going on holiday and moving into a new place all within a six-month period mightn’t be financially doable, but if you spread those things out, they might be.

Saying ‘whatever’ to an emergency fund

Approximately one in five Aussies has no emergency savings to keep them afloat when faced with unforeseen circumstances3. I’m talking anything from a busted phone screen or car tyre to needing to find new accommodation quickly.

An emergency stash of cash could give you some peace of mind and reduce the need to apply for a loan or ask someone you know for money. Tip - the general rule of thumb is to have at least three months’ worth of living expenses up your sleeve4.

Avoiding the money talk with your partner

More than one in four Aussies admit to lying to their partner about money, with hidden debt and secret spending two common contributing factors5. Side note, my partner did catch me at the drive through once during lockdown, but he couldn’t say anything because he was at the adjoining servo buying sneaky cigarettes.

Main point here is, before you set up joint accounts or make a big purchase together, make sure everything’s out on the table and you know how you’ll both contribute. If you’re planning on moving in with that special someone, you may also want to be across what happens to your finances if you split up with a de facto.

Spending a fortune on your wedding

The average wedding today costs around $36,000, with 60% taking out a loan and 18% using their credit card6 to help fund the costs.

If you’re thinking about getting married or forking out big on another milestone celebration, start saving early, talk to your partner (and parents if they’re involved), write down what you can afford, get quotes, and look at how many and who should realistically be on your guest list.

Being blasé about protection

I’m talking about insurance. Many of us will inevitably suffer from an unforeseen event that will leave us incapable of working and earning an income at some point in our lifetime.

While you may choose to go without insurance to save money, for a number of people it may be affordable through monthly premiums or paying out of your super money, but do your research.

Choosing a property that's beyond your means

Whether you’re renting or buying, it’s important to think about the upfront and ongoing costs, and the location you’re looking at, as different suburbs come with different price tags.

If home ownership is on the cards, get a full run-down of what you’re likely to pay.

Not caring about your future self

No one’s saying throw the YOLO mantra out the window, but if you really think about yourself in retirement – what would you like to see yourself doing?

It might seem like a lifetime away but reality check – it’s not. Plus, many people will be funding a retirement of 20 years or more and newsflash, the Age Pension alone isn’t enough to support a comfortable lifestyle7. With that in mind, putting money into super may be worth some more thought while you have time on your side.


This article was written by Julie May, Financial Writer at AMP.

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