Liz Pulliam Weston

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Your stupidest money moves

Would you like a 'free' puppy? A $2,000 clothes rack? Here are tips for avoiding financial flubs and tales from readers who've fessed up to their own goofs.

By Liz Pulliam Weston

For the most part, the posters who hang out on the Your Money message board are pretty smart folks. But everybody makes mistakes with money occasionally.

So a poster with the handle of "sneakers" invited others to share their dumb financial moves, saying, "Maybe if we post them here we can stop kicking ourselves."

Dozens took up the offer, and something interesting happened: Everybody had a great time. We had a few laughs, took solace in each other's goofs and even learned a thing or two.

Maybe you can as well. Here are some of the most common dough D'oh!'s:

Self-improvement or self-delusion?

If the posters are any gauge, a lot of money is spent on exercise equipment that goes unused. A sample:

"Poster nun3Z" bought a Bowflex exercise machine to make good on a New Year's resolution. "Cost me $800+. Used it for 2 months and I'm giving it away to the Salvation Army this month. They're going to pick it up on Wednesday."

Nun3Z's new resolution: "I'm not going to buy gym equipment again."

"Landa" could top that: "I have purchased almost every type of expensive exercise equipment out there. Health Rider, treadmill, stationary bikes (2), rowing machines, Ab Roller, trampoline, etc. . . . and I quickly tired of them all and gave them away. Big waste of money and a real bummer on the ego."

Perhaps to make Landa feel better, "cschin4" chimed in: "Treadmills are known to be very good for hanging wet laundry on!"

Assuming you don't want a $2,000 drying rack, think about the following:

  • The equipment won't work out itself. We love to believe in easy fixes, but no workout system on Earth can deliver commitment. Unless you're already engaged in a regular fitness routine, think twice about investing in home equipment.
  • There are cheaper ways to get fit. Walking, running, biking and swimming are comparatively low-cost ways to stay healthy. Try those first.
  • Buy used. Save some money by taking advantage of someone else's blown resolution. Try Craigslist or chains like Play It Again Sports.

Auto-matic regrets

Several posters cited bad decisions about vehicles: getting the wrong one, paying too much or incurring perfectly avoidable damage.

"CTBob1" bemoaned the day he leased a car, saying he "will never, ever, ever do that again."

"Maybe it makes sense for rich people who are very responsible and hardly ever drive, but for me it ended up costing me some serious $$$$. I went waaaaay over the allotted mileage and I didn't take the best care of the car. . . . I ended up throwing good money after bad and took out a loan to buy my car outright when the lease ended in order to avoid any fees."

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CTBob1 leased the car instead of buying it initially because "I couldn't afford the monthly payments if I purchased it new. . . . Alarm bells should have gone off then!!"

Indeed. In the long run, he "ended up paying much more money leasing the car and then borrowing money to buy the car when the lease ended."

It's hard to resist the siren call of the auto dealership, but your financial health may depend on it. Overspending on cars or buying the wrong one can cost you a small fortune. Some thoughts:

  • Buy for the long haul. People who buy cars and drive them for 10 years or more can save, over a lifetime, hundreds of thousands of dollars on vehicles compared with people who swap out their cars every five years. The savings compared with those who lease are even greater.
  • Don't buy on impulse. A vehicle is a big purchase and one that can have a profound impact on your financial health. Do your research at auto-comparison sites such as MSN Autos, Edmunds.com, Cars.com and ConsumerReports.org. Line up financing from your bank or credit union before you shop or, better yet, pay cash.

Continued: Be clothes-minded

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