Top 10 Money Mistakes to Avoid in Your 30s

In no particular order, here are 10 money mistakes to avoid in your thirties:

1. Only paying the minimum on your credit card

No. No. No. Avoid this, unless you absolutely cannot. The interest on some of these cards is bonkers (30% anyone?), and it’s just not worth it.

2. Not Considering the Benefits of a Company You May Work At 

Think about all the benefits a future company can offer you. Not just the job itself.

Choosing to work at a company that offers matching funds for your retirement 401K is an amazing perk and you absolutely MUST take advantage of it. Larger corporations often offer matching funds and it’s basically free money, so don’t let it pass you by.

Also consider how good the health benefits are, if there are benefits at all. How much will you have to pay monthly? Do they cover services like physical therapy and talk therapy?

Are there other benefits to consider? Like education or free daycare. I worked at a college for 4 years, and I was able to get a FREE MFA if I wanted. Umm…free Master’s Education, heck yeah! That’s worth like $40,000. I would have done this if they offered writing, but they didn’t. However, imagine if you worked at a school like Columbia, and could a Master’s program that would up your earning potential. Awesome. In many cases, you can also get your children free tuition down the line, if you’re still working at the school of course.

3. Spending too much on little things 

From your $3 cold brew iced coffee to your $1.75 Dasani cold water (guilty), all of these little extravagances add up. Sometimes, at the end of the day, I think about all the small fees and treats I could have avoided paying for, and usually it’s been $3 and $5. So let’s say I could save an extra $5 a day, that would be $1825 a year! Holy moly. That’s a lot of money.

4. Apartment Broker Fees

In NYC, it can sometimes be between 10 and 12% of the annual rent – which can be about one month’s rent or anywhere from $1100 to $2000, depending on what kind of apartment you rent.

I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve paid at least three broker fees when I lived in NYC. That was about $3000 lost dollars. There are ways to get around paying broker fees, and searching for these ways is the best way to go. It may mean a longer search time, or using more unorthodox methods (like asking friends of friends), but it’s worth it.

5. Not Picking Up Loose Change on the Street 

My mom taught me this one. Laugh all you want, but if you see a penny, a quarter, a nickel – anything, pick it up! Seriously. It’s not just about the money itself. I think it truly cultivates a sense of reverence towards money. Every time you don’t pick up change, it’s like saying “Oh, that’s just a nickel, who cares!” but what a terrible mentality. Let’s say you manage to pick up 10 cents a day everyday for 10 years (Which actually seems pretty likely considering how many pennies I see lying around), you’d have $365 dollars after 10 years. Not chump change.

6. Not Shopping Around for Groceries 

I adore Rao’s tomato sauce. It’s anywhere from $7.99 to $9.99 a jar, but man, that stuff rules. It’s absolutely delicious and tastes like you’re eating at a real Italian restaurant. Yum. But the point is that normally it’s on sale, recently Whole Foods has been carrying it for $7.99, and that saves me a whole $2 each time I buy it.

7. Not Choosing the Best Option between Renting and Buying 

I really don’t know how to describe the exact math here, but use this handy calculator to determine the best option for you.

8. Not Shopping for Clothing on Sale

Most stores have sales now that offer days when all items are a percentage off. In particular, Banana Republic and the Gap ALWAYS have their damn 40% off sales, at least once a week it seems. Why would you buy any full-price item that’s NOT 40% off? Those are the main two clothing stores I shop at, so I always wait until that deal is around before I purchase an item.

9. Investing in high-cost managed accounts 

Laura knows more about this than I do, but some investment and mutual fund accounts have fees attached to them, from the 1% fund management fee to the 1% financial advisor fee, you end up paying 40% of your returns (generally between 5 and 7%) to your broker.

10.  Having too many automated payments

I love my fiancé and he’s really good with money in most senses, but he has WAY too many automated payments. From paying monthly fees for Photoshop to Spotify, he pays a ton in monthly payments for services.  The problem with automated payments is that you forget about them. They become like financial wallpaper. And I think that’s dangerous. Again, it goes back to having a reverence for money.


11. Not Consistently Checking Your Credit Score 

I use the free service Credit Karma, and I check in every few months to see if my score has gone up (or god forbid, gone down). Having a high credit score can save you THOUSANDS of dollars in the long run, especially when you want to take out a mortgage. Staying above 760 is ideal. Even higher is better.

Hope this helps! If you have any tips of your own and would like to share, please do.

3 responses

  1. Kids before pets, pets are really expensive, especially dogs. By the way, I got our family a dog when the kids were 10 & 8 so that they could help out with their care and be more responsible.


  2. I found pet insurance really expensive if you wanted good coverage. Plus most of the medical bills didn’t come until our dog got much older. Hard to justify paying high monthly premiums for many years until needed. I also think that the dog doesn’t get very much attention if couples work all day. Leaving a dog alone for 9 to 10 hours during a working day is a bit cruel in my opinion. I also think leaving a dog in a crate all day to avoid chewing furniture is really cruel.


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