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We've all been in a position where we've bought something we didn't really need or spent too much on a trip aboard, but those mistakes are easy to make up for. What you don't want to do is make the kind of financial mistake that can hurt you for years to come. Money can't buy you happiness, but it can have a huge impact on your happiness if it causes the kind of stress and strain that can permeate other areas of your life.

The good news is that with a little forewarning and self discipline, you can avoid these mistakes and master your finances. In this article, we list the most common & dangerous financial mistakes and tell you how to avoid them. It's all part of our Money Money series - financial education aimed at equipping South Africans with the know-how needed to be successful with your money. But now, let's take a look at those mistakes that are so important to avoid. 

Putting off saving

People tend to put off saving because they feel they aren't yet earning enough. The problem is that as you earn more, your expenses tend to grow and saving becomes less of a priority. This mentality leads to a dangerous cycle of not saving. You can (and should) start today even if you start small. Your first task should be to build up a emergency fund as quickly as you can so that you don't have to rely on a loan if you are faced with an unexpected expense. We have a whole article dedicated to emergency funds, but if you just want the most important points, know this: the account you use for your emergency fund should allow you to access your money in a hurry, it should offer a high interest rate or average rate of return, and it should be low-cost. 

Failing to pay off credit cards in full

Having a credit card is a good way of building up a credit history, and it can come in handy if an emergency expense exceeds the amount you have in your emergency fund. However, credit cards should be used with caution. It's easy to forget the cost of credit and dig yourself into a very deep hole. Make sure that you stay well within your credit limit and what you can afford. And when you make a payment to your credit card account, do so in full. Paying the minimum each month only results in you paying more interest and establishes a habit that could be damaging to your credit score.  

Borrowing for nonessentials

By now, you know that an emergency fund is crucial for most emergency expenses and that a credit card can be used to establish a healthy credit history and bridge the gap between what you may have in your emergency fund and what you might need one day. But, you also need to be careful about very careful about what you borrow money for. Borrowing for nonessentials like luxuries will limit your access to credit when you really need it . 

Getting blacklisted

Getting blacklisted makes it very difficult to apply for a loan if you ever need one, and it will definitely increase the cost of borrowing if you do have to take out a loan. Worse, it might force you to take out loan from an irresponsible lender like a loan shark. If you are blacklisted, make it a priority to restore your credit score as quickly as possible. To learn how to do this, read out blog post on getting off the black list.  

Failing to communicate with your partner about money matters

Money can put strain on even the most solid of relationships. Be honest and open about your finances with your partner from the get-go. Your financial success as a couple is based on having discussions around your financial past and future. Everyone deals with (and views) money a little differently, and speaking about it candidly will ensure that you better understand each other's perspective. This will ultimately help you to set up and create a healthy financial framework with which to work from in your relationship.

Ignoring your partner's needs and goals

Do yourself, your partner and your relationship a favour, and recognise their needs and financial goals. Listen to your partner's needs and wants and think about them carefully. In a committed relationship, is a lot like a business associate, and a budget plan that you create needs to meet both of your goals.

Spending all your money on your children

It's easy to get swept up in your children's needs and want to give them everything you possibly can. However, It's hugely important that you are conscious of how much you spend on your children and how much you are saving for your future, because you really want to save as much as you possibly can. And the great news is that there are always ways to save when it comes to kids, even when it comes to their university fees. From scholarships to getting them to contribute by working, somehow you will find a way to make it work for everyone.

Learn more

For more useful money-related tips, sign up for our Money Mailer. In this free monthly newsletter, we serve up articles on topics ranging from saving to borrowing and everything inbetween. If you've ever wanted to know how to save for university, how to reduce your living expenses, or how to improve your credit score, the insights in these article can leave you wiser, wealthier, and better equipped to make the most of your money.

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