3 Seemingly Harmless Money Moves That Can Cost You

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Most of us are aware of the mistakes we make with money, from not socking away enough in savings to overspending on a frivolous item.

But some financial blunders are not nearly as obvious.

Jack Otter, author of “Worth It … Not Worth It?: Simple & Profitable Answers to Life's Tough Financial Questions,” told The Huffington Post that many Americans are making three seemingly innocent money mistakes that cost them dearly.

Once you recognize these three bank-account-draining money moves, you can avoid them and save yourself some cash, Otter says.

Mistake No. 1. Using a debit card to pay for gas or book a hotel. If you pay for your $10 lunch with your debit card, the money is drawn out of your account, and you’re good to go.

Otter says that’s not the way it works at the gas station. He explains:

“If you use your debit card at a gas station, you might only get $30 worth of gas — but the gas station puts a hold on $80 or $100, whatever it estimates you might have spent. Until it reconciles its books, you can’t touch that money. So, you could overdraft your bank account even though the money’s in there.”

Hotels can be even worse, freezing not only the funds to cover your stay, but also an amount that covers an estimate of what you might spend in incidentals, Otter warns.

He recommends using a credit card for gas and hotel purchases. However, if you carry a balance on your credit card, it probably makes more sense to use your debit card.

Mistake No. 2. Paying off your mortgage early. Although it may seem like a smart, responsible move to pay off your mortgage early, Otter said there’s a better way to use your money – put it into your retirement account, such as a 401(k). He says:

“It mainly comes down to taxes. Your employer pays you $1, but after taxes, that’s only 70 or 80 cents. If you put it in your 401(k), that’s pretax, so the full dollar goes into your 401(k). Plus the company match, that’s $1.50 you’re putting toward retirement.”

So, it’s the difference between putting 70 cents of every dollar toward your mortgage, or potentially saving $1.50 for retirement.

Mistake No. 3. Falling in love. While falling in love isn’t necessarily bad for your wallet, it can be if you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on finances. Otter explains:

“We all have sort of a mental financial math where we splurge on the things we really love, and then we cheap out on the things we don’t care about. Then, you meet someone who has different priorities: You love to eat out. … You don’t care much about traveling. But your partner, he or she loves to travel.”

Otter said communication and compromise are key to creating financial priorities in a relationship, so you can maintain a strong financial foundation.

Are you making one or more of these seemingly innocent money moves? Share your thoughts in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.

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