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Let’s face it: Young adults tend to be pretty careless about a lot of things, including their finances. It has to do with that unpredictable, in-the-now, still-kind-of-rebelling attitude that lingers for longer than it probably should. If you’re young and broke and can’t figure out why, you may be making one of the following most common, but easily avoidable, financial mistakes.

Buying on Impulse

Think about every store you’ve ever shopped at. What surrounds the checkout line? Usually, as you wait to step up to the register and make your purchase, you have to spend a few minutes standing next to racks of stuff–random, inexpensive, needless stuff–like candy, sodas, batteries, tabloids and lip balm. This is where retailers hope you will impulsively grab a few more things you “forgot” you needed before leaving.

Maybe you’re good at avoiding impulse buys and don’t pay any attention to them, but it seems most people in their teens and 20s live in one long check-out lane. There’s no separating wants and needs, just an open wallet whenever the mood to make a purchase strikes. Breaking this habit of buying impulsively will not only curb overspending, but also prevent you from accumulating a bunch of useless clutter over time.


Keeping track of your account balance is not exactly rocket science, especially since just about every financial institution offers 24/7 online banking, yet it seems most people pay the majority of overdraft charges early on in life.

Why is it so hard to maintain a positive balance as a youth? It’s really not, but you do have to stay on top of your transactions to prevent an overdraft. Balancing your checkbook is really the way to go. However, the practice is becoming somewhat passe, so at the very least, regularly check your balance online.

Charging Everything

A credit card is not a magical piece of plastic that lets you have everything you want for free. There will be a bill involved and somebody (you) will have to pay it. Most young cardholders know this, yet act like the former is true.

While it’s important to establish credit early in life, it’s also easy to take things too far. Don’t charge purchases to your credit card unless you already have the funds available to pay it off right away or it’s unavoidable.

Saving Nothing

When you’ve barely emerged from adolescence, retirement can seem like such a long way off. You believe you have plenty of time to save up some dough.

Unfortunately, this mindset prevents a lot of people from experiencing true financial security. A lack of savings sets you up for disaster. On one hand, you never have any emergency savings for when an expense you hadn’t counted on pops up. On the other, there’s your future; your happiness years down the road is heavily dependent upon your savings habits now.

Don’t believe it? Try using a retirement calculator. It’s terrifying.

Keeping up with the Jones’

This problem is not reserved for WASPy suburban families anymore. Young people endlessly struggle to top each other with the latest and trendiest possessions. Your friend has an iPhone 3G, so you need an iPhone 4G. Your classmate wears Ray-Bans, so you need Dolce and Gabbanas. What you really need is a reality check.

The truth is, nobody cares about what you own as much as you do, so save yourself the trouble and quit competing financially with your peers. You’re better off saving and investing your income so you can enjoy being the most successful person in your circle of friends later.

Some of the above habits can be tough to break, but you’ll thank yourself for turning things around now. You can still make up for any mistakes you’ve made so far by putting better financial behavior into practice today.

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