Yup, it’s a second post today inspired by Breaking Bad. (Hey, this blog is located on the Internet after all, i.e., the epicenter for content about Walter White, cats, and when we’re lucky, both).
Our last post mined the show for some good financial lessons. However, in this final season, things have gotten very dark—so we must too for our latest burning question.
Even if you’re unfamiliar with Breaking Bad, you probably know the show’s main concept (“Mr. Chips turns into Scarface”), because, once again, good luck browsing the Internet without coming across a Jesse Pinkman stuffed animal or a Gus Fring mask. The show has taken twists and turns, but it’s boiled down to Walt’s justified (at least to him) pursuit of money backfiring.
So, that’s what we asked our contributors to share: a financial decision they made that ended up “breaking bad” on them. Check out what they came up with.
Lending money to any family member or friend has always turned out to be a mistake. Things just get weird when someone you love promises to pay you back … and then doesn’t. What do you say? “Hey, my best friend in the whole wide world, stop being a freeloader and pay be back my cash? IT’S BEEN 2 MONTHS!” I feel like some sort of mobster whenever I ask for the dough back (and trust me, I’m not in the business of breaking toes). My policy is this: the more I love you, the less money I’ll ever lend you!
One time, I overpaid my student loans. I meant to make an extra $100 payment, but I typed an additional zero and ended up paying $1,000. That sounds like it should be great, but it actually forced me to live on credit for more than a month—and ultimately ended up being expensive because of the card’s interest. Now, I check and double-check ALL my bill payments.
In 1999, I thought I could pick stocks.
One big mistake I made was when I bought my first car in college. The cute red Subaru from the nice girl in the nice neighboring town turned out to be a bright yellow lemon in disguise. I should have spent money to have a mechanic look over the car before agreeing to buy it. The car needed an expensive head gasket, and on top of that, it was terrible in the Colorado mountains!
Well, I think one of my worst money decisions comes from all the trips I took to NYC this summer. Buying and changing bus tickets at the last minute is expensive. I need to get better at scheduling my bus rides and sticking with the plans. What should have been a $30 roundtrip ended up being $50 or even $60.
Our house had old knob-and-tube wiring when we bought it. We called a local electrician to find out how much it’d take to replace. After an on-site examination, the guy talked us into a $500 “diagnostic” exam for the house. Maybe we could salvage some wiring, he said. Nope. The “test” (i.e., him plugging things into outlets) said we needed to update it all—like we thought. He then quoted us a huge price, with the money we already paid him not counting toward it. We found a much less expensive electrician (this time, recommended by a friend) to do the job instead.
I thought I could only get my books from the bookstore, and I wouldn’t rent them. After all, what if I needed that rented book after the semester? Well, I rarely have, as the huge pile of useless old textbooks on my floor indicates. After learning about the wonders of online shopping, I now get books so much cheaper. This semester, I rented a $200 book from Amazon for $50. Winning!
The summer after my freshman year, I decided to take summer classes so I could graduate early—or on time, really, because I was in a 5-year program. I enrolled without thinking much of it. There were two summer sessions, with four total classes. Since my financial aid wouldn’t cover it all, I decided to take one class during each session and get a part-time job. Turns out, that’s not how that works. And I didn’t learn that until I received my revised bill after the first session ended.
Not only did my financial aid not apply (since I was enrolled as a part-time student), but the school also charged you for both classes in a session—even if you only enrolled in one! What kind of insanity is that? If I could go back, I would definitely appeal my case with the university. I later learned they have a lot of leeway; you just need to speak up. I sent an email asking for more financial aid my senior year and got it, no questions asked. I only regret not asking for more!
All right, readers, now it’s your turn. Let us know what money mistakes you’ve made in the comments. (This is a safe place to get it out.)