The first quarter of 2016 is in the books. If you were a corporation, you would be reviewing your first quarter financial performance.
The review is a helpful tool for planning for the future and avoiding the mistakes of the past. So it makes sense for households to treat themselves like a business, looking for what worked financially and where things tended to go off the rails.
Not having a budget is probably the biggest mistake most of us make. Without it, it's hard to stay on a path toward financial goals. Here are three other common financial missteps.
Passing on your employer's 401(k) match
Americans lag in retirement savings and this is a big reason why. If you are fortunate enough to have an employer who will match your contributions to a retirement account, by all means you should take advantage of it. It's free money, after all.
But a lot of people don't look at it that way, because in order to get the money they have to put away an equal amount, locking it away until retirement.
While it is true that the demands of a growing family often compete for retirement savings, consider that over the course of your employment, not taking advantage of the match will result in a smaller retirement nest egg.
If you can't afford to contribute the maximum, start small, adding more each year. Keep adding until you reach your goal.
Not taking advantage of cash back offers
Almost everyone has at least one credit card. It might as well be one that provides generous cash back rewards. That way every time you purchase gas or groceries, you get a little back.
After you get the bonus, use it to pay on your balance, or transfer the money to a savings account. We recently highlighted a couple of generous cash back cards to choose from. Also, choose one with no annual fee. Paying a fee each year will eat into your savings.
Not taking advantage of technology
Like everything, technology has changed finances. Instead of waiting until you get your back statement to find out you're overdrawn, banks now offer alerts when your balance gets dangerously low. They'll send you an email or text.
Signing up for these alerts is just one way to use technology to not only make life easier, but eliminate expensive overdraft fees.
"Almost everyone has made financial decisions they regret at some point in their life, but the key is to make sure we learn from those mistakes and that they don't continue to cost you money," SunTrust vice-president Scott Hotham, said in a release.
Hotham suggests setting aside a day to go over your finances and identify where you may be losing money unnecessarily. Running your household finances the way a business would might be a good approach.