Unrealistic Financial Goals That May Not Be Worth The Trouble

When you work hard on your finances and don’t attain unrealistic goals you’ve set for yourself, it’s easy to get discouraged and regress into irresponsibility. Pursue bite-sized, attainable landmarks on your way to financial stability and you’ll have a better chance at succeeding.

Girls Just Wanna Have Funds identifies financial “Holy Grails” that are sometimes not worth the effort it takes to attain them:

* Saving ridiculous amounts of money by couponing. Coupon ninjas are something like gamblers in that they’re quick to tell you about their big scores but conveniently leave out all the losses and unsatisfying hours of monotony that take up space between the wins. Unless you’re wholly dedicated and a little lucky, extreme couponing can amount to little more than busywork.

* Attaining a perfect credit score. Perfect credit use lands you the lowest loan and credit card rates, but sometimes it’s difficult — if not impossible — to make up for past mistakes. Your cash will always be as good as the next guy’s.

* Buying a house. In many cases it’s cheaper over the long run to buy a home rather than rent, but even free-and-clear ownership sticks you with eternal monthly fees that force you to throw money away. Property taxes, HOA fees and maintenance stick it to owners throughout their lives.

5 ‘Holy Grails’ Of Personal Finance You Need To Stop Worrying About [Girls Just Wanna Have Funds]

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  1. backwerds says:

    Dear Consumerist,

    When you post articles regarding financial matters or financial advice, please avoid posting articles from authors or bloggers who frequently use “LOL” in their writing. I would rather not take professional advice from someone who can’t even write semi-professionally.

    • Dr. Ned - This underwear is Sofa King Comfortable! says:

      U SHULD TOTES SAVE UR MONEYS!

    • Rebecca K-S says:

      It’s a pretty awful article.

      • DariusC says:

        Agreed, most likely written by a slickdealer who missed out on the Best Buy HDTV sale from Black Friday and now wants to discourage everyone from deal hunting so he can get the deal next time. And the LOL in the article is a big put-off, no matter how professional you claim to be. No journalist/writer should ever use acronyms in their writings unless they first write the entire thing out, and LOL would not be appropriate anywhere.

        • Cat says:

          So THAT’S what’s wrong with my resume, LOL!

          • DariusC says:

            I was CFORMGE of a supply center (What the fark is that (henceforth known as WTF for short)). Yes, I made that acronym up. Employers usually don’t look them up, they just toss the resume into the trash if they can’t decipher it.

    • axhandler1 says:

      Look at the website. Are you really that surprised the author uses LOL?

  2. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    Even though we’ve had some unexpected troubles, I’d rather buy my house again then pay the same amount to someone else for rent.

    At least in 3-4 years we can put some of that equity back into the house and get new windows.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      For the next 28 years my mortgage payment will stay the same unless I re-fi or take out a home equity loan.

      For the next 28 years, rent will only increase.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        That is also a great reason to buy if you can afford it.

        Before I purchased my house, I found my parents deed online from the house I grew up in. They bought the house in 1977.

        THEIR MORTGAGE PAYMENT WAS $175…

        • maxhobbs says:

          But you have to put things into perspective. In 1977 the majority of households only had one income. Gas was only 65cents a gallon. The DOW closed at 831 for the year. Most people had at LEAST a 20% if not more down payment and they BOUGHT WHAT THEY COULD not just afford but what was EASY to pay and have plenty of money for savings, college funds, expenses, etc… it was a very different mindset.

          The average home price in 1977 was just $49,000. You could buy a 3 series BMW for under $8,000.

      • maxhobbs says:

        And in 28 years you will probably have to pay for a new roof, new windows, new furnace, thousands in landscaping/cutting grass, re-paint, re-model.

        Your taxes will go up, your insurance will go up, your HOA fees will go up.

        And after so many years even in good markets your house will start to lose value as it is “old”.

        It isn’t as cut and dry as you think.

        • K-Bo says:

          If you put the money you save on rent into savings and earn interest on it, rather than blowing it on fun things, you will still come out ahead. I’m coming out somewhere around $400 a month ahead right now, and that goes up $50-100 a year. I haven’t had to spend a penny on new appliances in the 4 years I’ve been there. Lawncare and roof are included in the HOA payment ( which I took into account when calculating my savings) When time does come to re-paint, re-model or replace the furnace, I will be able to do it from what I saved and still come out ahead. Then again, I live in an area where renting is abnormally high in comparison to buying. In some areas, the math wouldn’t work out.

          • K-Bo says:

            Good take away from all these housing argument comments: Just because buying was better for your parents, or renting was better for your friends, don’t assume your situation would be the same. Sit down and do the math and find out what works best in your financial situation in the area you choose to live.

            • Dallas_shopper says:

              This. In my case…in THIS market…buying is better than renting. YMMV. But to make a blanket assumption that one is always better than the other is incorrect.

            • h3llc4t, breaker of office dress codes says:

              One thing that people seem to lose sight of: it’s not always all about the money.

              This fall I purchased a 3BR foreclosure house. My total monthly payment including taxes and insurance came to around $75 more than my cute-but-kinda-scary 1BR apartment. The house needed repairs (former residents punched holes in the drywall, etc; not enough to make it worth getting a 203k loan, but enough to scare away the average buyer). You know what? Money aside, I am hopelessly in love with my house. I bought it because not much makes me happier than rolling up my sleeves and doing something constructive on it. My house is a source of joy that I never found in a rental property.

              Yeah, yeah…”this is an article about finances, dummyhead, that’s why we’re talking about it.” True. But I rule my budget with an iron fist and this is one case in which saving money might not always be the highest priority. An unexpected side effect was the fact that I go out a lot less since I’m much happier sitting at home and doing some Martha Stewart-y crap whilst pretending I am an adult.

              • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

                Indeed. I was looking for houses and had a top range in mind. I found several houses where I was comfortable but they just didn’t fit right with location or amenities or size. Then I found a house that was WAY TOO BIG and WAY TOO EXPENSIVE and negotiated the price down.

                I didn’t buy my house to invest in something, I bought it so that I would have a roof over my head and I wouldn’t have to commute so far every day any more. I didn’t buy it to turn a profit, I bought it to start my life and grow into it. We’re never going to have to move. We have 4 bedrooms and there’s only the two of us…

              • Saltpork says:

                I feel this way about my home and I’m a renter.

                My situation is a bit more unique for renting than most I think. I rent the former home of a self-employed roofer who is down to earth. My rent hasn’t gone up once in 5 years.

                The flip side of the coin is that I take care of any issues that arise. I’ve replaced plumbing, gutters, kitchen faucet, toilet issues, wiring issues, etc as well as maintained the landscape and trimmed the trees. I don’t mind doing it either.

                The only thing I’ve asked my landlord to actually fix was a broken dishwasher. Next spring he will replace the hot water heater as it’s beginning to get old and the build up is starting to get flushed into the pipes.

                It works well. His mortgage on the place gets paid and I never get increased cost in my rent without a written agreement. This could change tomorrow, but so far it’s been a good option for me and my situation.

                Over the next 2-3 years I am looking to buy a home. I’ve already started saving for the downpayment.

        • Rachacha says:

          Once you have paid off your mortgage, your costs drop dramatically. Sure, you still have expenses like insurance, taxes, roof etc, but those costs pale in comparison to rent. I lived in a home for a few years where we paid off the mortgage in full. We were able to take the mortgage payment every month, and invest it which built up our savings and earned us some extra money in interest. Sure, stuff broke, but replacing a $4.00 GFCI outlet or $800 in new carpeting for the bedrooms is much more affordable than the $2000 mortgage payment.

          I now rent out that house, and my expenses are about 50% of the rent that I am bringing in, and that includes setting aside money to replace the water heater, furnace, roof etc., taxes and insurance on a rental property. Over the years, I will probably increase rent based on the market, as well as how my expenses increase. If my taxes and insurance increase $1000 next year, I am going to increase rent accordingly. Sure, not every situation is the same, but for me, owning a home makes better financial sense.

          • maxhobbs says:

            How much are you getting in interest today? And I’m not sure where you live but a $2,000 RENT payment is unheard of here.

            It’s all a game, some years better to rent, some years better to buy. You can’t control the taxes, the insurance, the problems. With rent you can pull up and leave but with a house you are stuck until you find a buyer. All comes down to your needs but it is NOT a clear cut easy answer of rent vs buy.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          And don’t forget that they really paid $400,000 for that $200,000 mortgage. At least with rent, you know what you are getting into, you don’t have to worry about freak problems (that seem to happen monthly.) With our house, we had to budget for many, many things other than just the mortgage. It was super expensive. That didn’t include all of the non-necessity improvements we made just to tailor it to our tastes.

          • K-Bo says:

            With mortgage, you know what you are getting yourself into, it’s not like you take out a mortgage without knowing the rate. The longest I’ve ever known what I was getting myself into with rent is 1 year, because the next years lease was always higher.

          • K-Bo says:

            You do realize that that interest is calculated into the monthly payments, so when we are quoting that it cost $x less per month to buy than rent, it means that renting over those 30 years would be more than $400,000. Plus once it’s paid off, even if I sell it for less than I paid for it, I walk away with something. With rent, I walk away with at most my damage deposit of $100-$500.

        • Dallas_shopper says:

          Yeah…first off, my neighborhood doesn’t have an HOA. So forget about those fees. NEXT.

          Second, my house was built in 1957 so it’s already old. It’s in an “inner ring” suburb of Dallas with an outstanding school district. It’s not going to lose its value because it’s not “new”. That ship sailed a long-ass time ago. NEXT.

          New windows…bought and paid for already. We’re good on windows for the next 25 years. NEXT.

          Remodel? Unnecessary. I’m happy with my house and its layout the way it is. The only way I’d remodel the kitchen or bathroom is if I absolutely had to. Some people really are content with making do with what they have. Fuck granite countertops. NEXT.

          New roof? I live in Texas, so a hailstorm and insurance is likely to take care of that expense for me. I don’t know anyone here who has ever paid for a new roof out of pocket. You wait for a hailstorm to take the old one out, then claim it on your homeowner’s insurance. NEXT.

          New furnace? The furnace was brand-new when I moved in so I’m not anticipating changing it out for at least a decade. The AC condenser will likely need to be replaced in the next couple of years as it is nearing the end of its useful lifespan, but I don’t see how that expense makes my house a ‘bad buy’.

          You know what they say about assumptions, dude. In some markets, renting may be a better option than buying. However, in THIS market, buying is almost always better than renting. I didn’t overpay for my house, I bought in a very desirable area that should only get more desirable as the years go by, and I’m not the type to remodel frequently or drop thousands on landscaping every year. I do most of my own landscaping. I built my raised vegetable garden with its drip irrigation system and rainwater collection system with my own two hands. In my last house I also laid the sod on the entire lawn and built an 8 ft by 10 ft greenhouse…again, with my own two hands.

          Some people hire everything out. I don’t, because I’m not lazy or a pussy.

          • maxhobbs says:

            But the bottom line is you live in the wasteland known as Dallas in the armpit known as Texas.

            • Dallas_shopper says:

              *shrug* It’s where I grew up. It’s where my family is. There are worse places to live. And people keep moving here because they think it’s cheap (not as cheap as they assume) and because they think there’s tons of jobs (ha!). :-(((((((((

          • PhantomPumpkin says:

            I don’t envy you and that sod work at all.

        • Shrew2u says:

          Are you implying that you would *not* be paying for those same expenses when you rent?

          Would your landlord *not* have those same expenses? Would your landlord *not* pass the cost of those repairs onto you through increased rent over time?

          Before offloading our condos to buy our current home, my husband and I rented them out for a bit; in each case, the rent was enough to pay P&I, property taxes, HOA and a reserve for future maintenance & repair of about $100/mo per condo. You better believe we were passing along the maintenance costs to our renters…in advance.

        • PhantomPumpkin says:

          Yep, but it can still work out heavily in your favor. Aunt/Uncle bought their house in the 70′s for 25k. Put near 100k in additions etc into it. Sold it for 500k a year or two ago.

          Hard to tell me you’d save enough renting with the rates these days to equal ~375k.

      • K-Bo says:

        This is exactly why I bought. The price on my 700 sq foot apartment went from $100 less than the mortgage on a 1400 sq foot house to $150 more than the house in the ~3 years I lived there. I locked in the price on the house because I was reaching the point I was afraid I’d have to take a second job to afford my rent on the apartment if I stayed another year.

  3. Lethe says:

    Wow.

    “Being 6 figures in student loan debt used to be something I was ashamed to admit. As you probably guessed, now I don‚Äôt care LOL”

    We’re taking financial advice from this person?

    • impatientgirl says:

      seriously.

      Consumerist posts a lot of great things, but it is rare that I agree with anything financial.

  4. Cat says:

    Property taxes, HOA fees and maintenance stick it to owners throughout their lives.

    Whether you own or rent, you’re paying these costs anyway. “Mista Lannlord” is not paying them out of his pockets.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      And anyone who doesn’t realize that shouldn’t be posting financial advice on a website.

      Then again maybe she took advice from Consumerist about setting up a “coaching blog” to make some extra holiday cash!

  5. maxhobbs says:

    Not just LOL’s but the guy actually has smiley faces within the article?

    I’m starting to lose respect for the Consumerist for linking articles like this.

    And his first point blows my mind, trying to say insurance rates don’t go up if you get speeding tickets. Um, it is just that your insurance has not FOUND OUT about your tickets yet. Don’t ever try to make a claim or change your policy because then they will find them and your rates will skyrocket. But it kills me, makes it like the only reason he doesn’t speed is because he worried over his insurance rates. And I’d love to be the cop that had to listen to him whine about “please officer, no ticket, my insurance will go up”, I’d give him another ticket for being a crybaby.

    • ovalseven says:

      He writes a blog called “Girls Just Wanna Have Funds” and his name is Ginger?

      • katarzyna says:

        Peggy?

      • maxhobbs says:

        I see now it is some chic, I just skimmed the article and hand not seen the name nor looked at the website. I guess the main picture of a GUY made me think it was a guy that wrote it.

        • ovalseven says:

          Your original point is still valid, but it makes more sense knowing that it was written by woman. I know that sounds sexist, but she’s not helping her gender shed any negative stereotypes by writing an article like that.

  6. Rachacha says:

    On the buying a home, while each situation is different, HOA fees, maintenance and depriciation on the roof, water heater and HVAC systems etc. are usually less than the rent of a comperable property.

    I am renting out a home that I used to live in. I had paid off the mortgage completely when I was living there, so my expenses were as follows:

    HOA Fees: $35/month
    Taxes: $1000/month
    Depriciation of major systems (Roof, HVAC etc) : $92/month
    General Maintenance & Repairs: $50/month
    Insurance: $150/month
    TOTAL Cost $1327/month

    (I did not include utilities above as you would have to pay for that whether you were renting or own)
    I am renting out that same home for $2500/month, so my renter is essentially paying me to pay for all of these expenses, and I get to pocket $1100.

    Short term, rentals are the way to go, but if you intend to stay in an area for a while purchasing might make better financial sense.

    Total monthly cost:

    • theblackdog says:

      I agree with you, but home prices are so crazy-expensive in Washington DC and the surrounding areas that you need to be a two-income family to properly afford one.

    • maxhobbs says:

      Taxes are $1,000 per MONTH?? I just had a cow.

    • dolemite says:

      Ouch. To pay that kind of taxes where I live, you’d have to have a million dollar home. My property tax is about $100 a month. Insurance is around $30 a month. Of course, my mortage+tax+insurance etc is $625 a month…

      • crispyduck13 says:

        Even in podunk York, Pa if you live within the city limits and you have a house worth 250k or so your taxes are going to be close to $1k per month. It’s ridiculous but true, and the city is close to bankrupt.

      • Jennlee says:

        I’m in a cheap development home (hollow core doors, postage stamp lot, not a big house) in Wisconsin and my property taxes are about $500 a month. Crazy!

    • lucky13 says:

      Where do you live that property taxes are $1K/month? Mine are about $120/mo.

    • Rachacha says:

      OOPS – Sorry, Taxes are not $1000/month, they are about $500/month (I was juggling too many numbers and trying to convert Annual bills into monthly expenses),

      Regardless, it does not change the fact that in my case, owning a home is less expensive than renting out a home.

  7. Shrew2u says:

    I can write the interest and property taxes off (if I itemize deductions) on my Schedule A. HOA and maintenance cannot be deducted, but heck, those fees are pretty minor compared to paying rent each month. Attempting to make money in real estate speculation is foolhardy, yes (BTDT, made enough to put down 20% on my current home but I got lucky), but using some prudence and common sense when buying a home makes it a better use of one’s money than renting.

    The couponing I’m of two minds about. If you have nothing more productive to do with your time (unemployed with school-aged kids, for example), are buying things you actually need and aren’t a cheating asshole about it, then hey, happy couponing. The people I see clearing shelves and scamming through UPC-based product swaps are a menace to polite society.

    Attaining an excellent credit score is not difficult when you live within your means and use credit prudently. My husband filed for personal bankruptcy in 1998 due to his financial support of his ex-girlfriend’s failing business. By 2008, his credit score was near-perfect. I haven’t looked at my credit score in ages, but it’s good enough to be approved for every credit card for which I’ve applied except Amex. That works for me.

  8. jrs45 says:

    Paying off your house or student loans early is often foolish; the interest rates are almost as low as inflation, and the extra liquidity you have is very valuable. All too often people try to pay these down at any cost.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Especially with the IBR option where you can end up having to pay very little on your loans. My payments will be 1/4 of what they would be otherwise. Comibine that with me being in a public service profession and having them forgiven at the end of 10 years and I would be dumb to put a penny more than I have to into my payments. Hey, if the government wants to give me free money for my school, who am I to turn it down?

    • Nick says:

      You must be a banker or mad that you can’t pay off mortgage early.

  9. Nick Wright says:

    I think they were going for a smiley and their blog software substituted the word LOL for it when it somehow couldn’t get the associated emoticon. Not that a lot of smileys in a financial column is particularly professional either…

  10. Kodai says:

    yes, “extreme cuponing” is dumb, but you can easily save 10%-20% by looking through your newspaper (even factoring in the cost of that newspaper)

    I’m currently renting. I still am paying property taxes. it’s just included in the rent. As for “throwing away money” by owning a home, what do you think I’m doing now? I have ZERO equity.

  11. Belle says:

    Everybody is so rah-rah about buying a house. I don’t argue with the financial sense in the VERY long run. However, if I have to live in a house for 20+ years to recoup my start up costs, I would need to buy my dream house and be able to commit to living there for essentially the rest of my life.