Unless you’re one of the fortunate ones, at some point in your journey through life you’ve endured the lifestyle of the broke, young and struggling. In these sour fiscal times, there’s a pretty good chance that you may be enjoying the disadvantages of the financially strapped at this very moment. Having said that, dig these tips to help you avoid making some of the following common fiscal faux pas that keep us dwelling in the den of debt:

Denial, Denial, and More Denial: Dictionary.com defines it as a disbelief in the existence or reality of a thing, which sounds about right if you find yourself spending like a person with an income 2 or 3 times greater than yours. The first step towards making positive change is accepting the truth, otherwise what chance do you have in changing your spending habits?

Abusing Credit Cards: The credit card industry depends on those who use credit to live beyond their means. If you can’t live below them, try living within your means at the very least. In the words of financial guru Lynnette Khalfani Cox, “Avoid trying to live what I call the ‘bling-bling’ lifestyle and guard against that temptation to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’”

Paying Too Much in Fees: $2.00 here, 3.50 there – it may not seem like much, but financial fees stack up and can drain your account like a sieve. Avoid frequent ATM charges by withdrawing cash at your own bank and whatever you do, pay your credit card bills on time. If the late fees don’t screw you, a 30% APR will.

Late or Non-Bill Payment: Not a good look unless you want the lifestyle of the broke and struggling your whole life through. The affect on your credit score and charges in late fees can lead to corporate banking enslavement and even bankruptcy in the long run – which really ain’t no joke.

What Budget?: If you are among the broke, young and struggling, the “term disposable” income is not a part of your vocabulary. Living on a limited income means that each and every penny has to be accounted for, unless you’re not averse to spending a little time in a homeless shelter. Creating a budget is a great tool that not only helps you to handle the logistics, can allow you to put aside the necessary funds for savings and recreation.

Refusal to Save: “Save your money” has got to be the most commonly used financial mantra. Some experts call it “paying yourself first,” but what it boils down to is that you consistently put a portion of your income (no matter how small) away for the future.

Second-Hand Aversion: No one’s saying you’ll never reach full baller status, but if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, buying a hot, reliable used car is much more sensible than a souped-up new joint. The same thoughtful spending tactic can be apply to the purchasing of books, clothes and furniture too.

Curb Your “Social Spending”: You work hard, and deserve to play hard – if you so choose, but party-people beware: these activities are the root cause of major financial hemorrhaging. Between the inflated prices of alcoholic beverages, bar food and gratuity, a simple night out on the town can rob you of a nice chunk of change. One suggestion? Get the best of both worlds. Start the party at home (unless you’re the designated driver). Happy hour can start at your crib where cocktails cost a fraction of the price to make, and taste just as good.

Let Your Kitchen Become a Ghost town: Speaking of inflated costs and tipping, another method of saving those ends involves eating out less, and cooking in more. You’re not a good cook? Here’s your chance to improve your culinary skills – and with the Internet at an added tool, you can find tons of simple recipes that can lead you on your way to eating an affordable gourmet meal within the comfort of your own home.

Miss Out on the Restaurant Meal-Share: Ok. This one may not be for everyone, however, it’s a good option to consider if you musthit the restaurant with a vacant wallet. Next time you and your meal companion dine out, try splitting a number of appetizers and one entrée. You may be surprised to find your appetite and budget quite satisfied.

Overspend on the Holidays: According to Lynnette Khalfani Cox, over-spending is the biggest source of debt for women in particular and advises us to spend more cash and try to leave the credit card at home when shopping over the holidays.

Overspend on Your Appearance: For women in particular, looking good is often equivalent to feeling good. Some women pride themselves on flawless hair or nails, being fashion forward or an airtight combination fabulousness from head to toe. Just remember that you don’t have to spend a fortune to look like one. Find ways to sustain facets of your own style to spare your wallet. It also helps to know where to uncover the best bargains.

Refusal to Get Health Coverage: Although reform is on the horizon, for the next few years, it’s business as usual as far as health plans go. In the meantime, it would be in your best interest to safeguard yourself by accepting your employer’s plan, or obtaining health coverage individually. It may seem like waste of money, but if by chance you become hospitalized without it, you could very well find yourself dangerously destitute for years to come.

Borrow From Family/Friends: This is a slippery slope because it carries the potential to cause bad blood between you and the ones you love, and it also keeps you trapped in the habit of creating debt rather than learning the lessons caused by a debt ridden life.

Insistence on living alone: You’re an adult and as such, you refuse to move back with the ‘rents. As a matter of fact, you aren’t tryin’ to share your living space with anyone. You’re within your right to do so, but if you’re spending the better part of your salary on your solitary abode, you could be doing yourself a disservice. Shared living can provide a major reduction in your monthly spending, allowing you the opportunity to put that money to positive long term use.

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  • Introverted Leo

    I’ve stopped using my credit cards and have focused on paying them down, but it is difficult with little income.

    Fees? I don’t do fees. I only use my bank or credit union’s ATM. I pay bills online, so no need to buy Cashier’s check/Official checks or money orders.

    Late or non-bill payment, what’s that? I don’t do that [email protected]! My sister has forgone paying some medical bills under the excuse that they go away in seven years. I guess she wants to be living at home forever then.

    I am currently on unemployment, so yea, every penny is accounted for. I even have an excel spreadsheet to document my expenses as far as what bills need to be paid.

    I don’t receive much in unemployment, but I have been saving what I can.

    I don’t buy books or movies. I check out books at the library.

    I don’t overspend on holidays. If my family members get upset about only receiving one or two gifts from me, then so be it, because I don’t like them all that much anyway.

    I don’t overspend on my appearance. I don’t get pedicures/manicures because I take care of those things myself. I don’t wear makeup, so that is an expense I don’t have.

    As soon as I obtained a job where I could afford health care, I took it.

    I don’t borrow money from family/friends. My grandmother loves to borrow money and lend it out. She is always complaining about not having money/takes out loans and doesn’t seem to be cognizant that when she is no longer here, her family will be made responsible for that debt.

    I don’t currently live alone, but once I am able to do so, I plan to live alone. I need to live alone.

  • LN

    All these are spot on! I dedicated 2010 to cleaning up my finances. It was hard as f*ck, but I did it! Got rid of $10,000 in credit card bills and $1,500 in fees and fines on my car.

    Another money mistake I’d add is not paying tickets and fines right away. I let things get out of control and was actually arrested on a routine traffic stop for having so many unpaid tickets on my car. It was one the most horrifying and humiliating experiences of my life, but it was a wake up call.

    I don’t have a budget, but I find the “pay yourself first” method to be effective. The first thing I do with my paycheck put money in my money market savings account. The second thing? Pay down my credit card balance to $0. Anything that’s leftover is what I live within.

    Sometimes it’s frustrating that I can’t eat out more or do more fun social stuff. But honestly, I’ve found that a lot of restaurants/social activities are kind of overrated. For example, my husband and I flew out to New York for a couple days, just to splurge. It was the most boring few days of my life. I essentially spent $500 for a mini vacation that I didn’t even enjoy. I also went through a Jeffrey Campbell phase were I bought up $2,000 worth of JC shoes. Again, it was fun at the time, but I soon realized that the purchases were highly impractical for my lifestyle (I work from home, and I don’t go out that much). In both instances, I kind of realized that it’s easy to piss money away on stuff that you don’t fully enjoy. So now I try to be really discriminating about how I’m going to splurge. For example, I’m not doing much for the rest of this year, but my husband and I are traveling Europe next Spring. It’s something that I’m genuinely excited about.

  • I needed to read this article, because I’m approaching graduation (class of 2013!) and Sallie Mae will be calling me asking for her money, I’m a repeat offender on spending money on my appearance, but I’m trying hard to budget my money and save as much as I can, I’ll get it together though.

  • Aja

    Great article and very on point!! I need to follow some of these myself.

  • jenna marie christian

    very true… I am one of those who would rather live alone than save a few bucks. I just need my own space. No way around that for me. not even to save money. I just choose to live in a small studio instead of a full one or two bedroom apartment.