Signs you're spending too much money

Many of us complain of being strapped for cash, forcing us to put off vacations and even milestone events like graduation, marriage and having kids.

But we don't realize that our poor spending habits are likely to blame.

Whether you're living on credit or spending significant sums on stuff you may not even use, such practices add up over time, resulting in in a mountain of debt, depleted savings, and other unfavorable consequences that can wreak havoc on your life.

Look in your closet or drawers. Do you have various items that still have price tags on them?

That probably means that you bought them to jump on a sale, not because you really wanted them in the first place.

I caution people against buying things simply because they'll get something free or a second item half off, for example. It induces us to buy things we otherwise wouldn't buy if they weren't on sale.

So, what happens? These things are left collecting dust at home while your bank account pays the price. While I'm all for taking advantage of an occasional sale -- so long as you're confident you'll use the item -- doing it too often can lead to a serious case of buyer's remorse. Remember, companies use the lure of a can't-miss sale to reel you in. Don't bite the bait for the sake of saving a buck. Make sure it's something you genuinely want.

It goes without saying that if you can only make the minimum payments on your credit cards, you're spending too much money. Such cards should only be used in case of an emergency or to purchase a big-ticket item you don't want to shell out the cash for in the immediate future. You should only make purchases on credit cards, though, if you're certain you can pay in full -- or thereabouts -- each month.

Interest rates are astronomically high. Making only the minimum payment guarantees that it'll take years to pay down the debt.

If you find yourself in this pickle, stop putting stuff on your credit cards at once. Instead, look to see where you can cut expenses. Perhaps by getting rid of cable and other non-essentials, eating at home rather than eating out, buying only generic brands at the grocery store, and making other small changes, you'll reap huge savings in the process.

Do you have anything lying at home that you don't use -- from clothing to appliances? Consider selling them to a thrift shop or consignment store.

If worse comes to worst, get a job that pays better or a side gig that provides supplemental income. This will help you build up your savings while lessening your reliance on plastic.

Finally, if "keeping up with the Joneses" is what's principally fueling the compulsion to overspend, you're going down a slippery slope. Trying to maintain a lavish lifestyle on credit can only lead to financial ruin.

Don't be reckless with your finances. Live within or below your means. Build up your savings in the event of an emergency. Credit cards should be your last alternative.

Be a responsible consumer. Your credit score will thank you for it later.

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