man with phone and credit card in hands

4 Biggest Spending Regrets and How to Avoid Them–Now, and in the Future


There’s nothing particularly comforting about regret, but according to Dan Ariely, a Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University, regret is actually useful because we can learn from it.

“While it’s common to regret the last thing we ate, it may be equally common to regret the last thing we bought. The feeling of regret, while not pleasant, may serve as a teaching moment to help us understand what we enjoy and what we don’t enjoy.” He said, “By systematically understanding the things people regret, we can design systems that encourage us to spend our money on things that make us happier.”


Here are four types of spending that people felt worst about down the road and some tips on how you can avoid such spendings:


1. Fees and penalties

Let’s say a friend writes you a check for $400. You deposit the check at your bank, and your account is immediately credited.

X days later your bank discovers the check is no good, and then delete the $400 from your account.

But that’s not all, they’ll also slap you with a returned deposit fee of about $15 to $30.

Here’s another scenario:

You made a mental note to pay your electricity bills on or before the due date but something came up and you forgot, by the time you remembered, the deadline had already passed by many days. You can still pay but you’ll get slapped with a late fee.

Same can also be said about over drafting, it could cost you money in fees. And, if you do it too many times, you could end up having your account closed and being unable to open a new one because you'll have a negative report on ChexSystems.

ChexSystems is to banks what credit history is to credit card issuers.

How to avoid this regret:


No one likes forking over useless money to their banks or utility companies. So please, accept checks only from people who you know to be financially responsible; also put as many bills as possible on AutoPay. If you’re the type who doesn’t like AutoPay then be sure to set up MULTIPLE reminders so you don't forget any deadlines.

Also be sure to opt out of your bank’s overdraft program so you don’t get charged multiple fees.

2. Impulse purchases

Ever walked past a cute pair of sandals on sale or seen a Sweater with your team logo in a store window and you get a strong desire to own it? You didn’t know you needed it until you saw it. And just like that, you shelled out cold, hard cash at the store just to gratify that impulse-- That’s an example of an impulse purchase


And, you're not alone.


More than half of U.S. shoppers—54 percent
—have admitted to spending $100 or more on an impulse buy, including 20 percent who have spent at least $1,000.


And although we all differ in items we impulse-buy, for Jake it might be a Shoe and for Chris, shiny gold cufflinks.


But one thing that’s common to us all or should I say to 46% of us 
is the regret that comes with such purchases. Whether it’s after 1 day, or after 100 days the regret visits us eventually.


How to avoid this regret:


Pretty straightforward, limit your impulse purchases. Make a budget that gives you a reasonable amount of latitude to enjoy your life without wrecking your finances.

girl at brunch with friends


3. Eating out


According to the
Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends about $3,000 a year eating out and that’s by pretty conservative estimates as you’ll soon see when we break down an average individual's eating habits.

Consider this:


Say you spend $10 per meal, and you eat out for lunch Monday through Friday every week, this quickly adds up to $50 per week. Keep that up for a year and you’re looking at about $2600 per year on feeding and that’s just for LUNCH. What would happen if you also decide to go out to dinner 2 or 3 times a week?

In 2016, one couple reviewed their credit card statements and you know how much they spent eating out?

A whopping $30,000.

You might gasp, frown and ask “How in the world can anyone spend that much on food?”  Well, even they didn’t know they’d spent that much until they reviewed their credit card statements. It turned out that they spent more than $82 a day for their three-person family.

How to avoid this regret:

Again, this is pretty straightforward, count the costs, remembering how much you waste on eating out daily should motivate you to find cheaper alternatives. Look up low-cost recipes that are simple and healthy. Have a menu plan and cook your own meals as frequently as possible, pack your lunch the night before and don’t assume you’ll have the time to pack it in the morning.


4. Incurring too much student loan debt


The numbers are shocking. Over
40 million people are currently indebted for their higher education.


According to the Institute for College Access & Success' Project on Student Debt, the average balance for folks who borrowed for their undergraduate programs was nearly $30,000 and that was in 2014.


For those who went on to pursue an advanced degree, their debts are understandably heavier. A quarter of graduate students owe about
$100,000.


Now out of school, most regret how they funded their education.

How to avoid this regret:

Creditcards.com asked some of the graduates the question: “if you could go back in time what would you have done differently?”


Here were their answers:


"If I could go back, I'd borrow way less and put my foot down with instructors and work a job during my training," says Matt Archambault, from New York City.


“I definitely wish I would have taken out a smaller amount of student loans while I was in college," says Chenell Tull, "I took out extra for spending money and basically maxed out in student loans each year," continues Tull. "By the time I graduated, I had accumulated $72,000 in student loan debt."


“I absolutely wish I had budgeted more and been a complete miser," says Matthew Books, who lives in the Orlando, Florida, area and still owes around $100,000. "I'm in repayment mode and it stinks.”


“I went to a highly rated private university for a master's in teaching, when a state university would have done just as well," says Pamela Mattson McDonald, from Portland, Oregon. "The private university took $50,000 to get my degree, whereas the state university only would have required $24,000.”