9 Bad Money Habits I Wish I’d Avoided in My Early 20s

Are you happy with the way you spend your hard-earned money?

Or perhaps you have a few bad money habits you know you can do without?

Like many people who learn the concept of compound interest a little late, I wish I’d learned about it in my teens or early 20s.

Had I understood it at an early age, I’d have made better choices with my money.

Although regrets are part of our life, the consequence of bad money habits can be a lot severe than other life choices.

So, if you haven’t thought about how you spend your money, I hope the lessons I’ve learned below gives you an opportunity to think about it.

Of course, there’s nothing better than educating yourself if you really want to master a money game and take charge of your finances.

Check out these excellent must-read finance books.

You might be also interested in the best debt quotes I wish I had known in my early 20s.

Now I’m happy to say I’ve ditched all my bad money habits.

It had begun with a bare-bone budget. Basically, I became a nun for a while. ha.

Since then, I’ve adopted a minimalist lifestyle.

Life has become far simpler, straightforward and, most of all, in control.

Like I could finally breathe…

A good thing about a bare-bone budget is budgeting got so much easier, simpler and faster.

Not boring or tedious I thought it would be!

Imagine you have 50 columns to fill in your budget printable or excel budget sheet.

That’s the kind of stuff that’ll put you off budgeting permanently. ha.

My bare-bones budget had narrowed down the list to less than 10 columns to fill!

Below are bad money habits I wish I’d avoided in my early 20s.

1. Impulsive Travelling

When you live in a metropolitan city like London, jumping on a plane for a getaway to other parts of Europe becomes so easy.

I wish I had developed a habit of winding down in a club or something. You know, something like binge drinking. ha.

Mine was travelling.

So when a stressful situation had occurred, I’d book a flight and “run away”.

I’d rationalise that I need to get away to somewhere exotic, take my mind off and forget everything, and when I return, I’d start afresh.

It worked but along with it, came a hefty price tag as I often took the trip on credit cards. duh!

2. Eating out / Ordering Takeaway

Many times, I convinced myself I was too tired to cook after work.

The truth was I was simply too lazy to cook.

I also loved to treat friends. Took them out to dinner after work, exploring new cuisines together.

The crazy thing is I love cooking.

It’s been a while since I dined out or ordered takeaway now.

I also recently learned about fasting.

Originally started as a self-control exercise but I’m loving it for many reasons.

Not only does it save money (although I don’t recommend this to be the reason for fasting!), I like the health benefits of fasting I’m experiencing.

3. Using Credit Cards

I was really good with credit cards… until I wasn’t, any more!

I got hooked to its easiness.

Credit cards made spending so much easy with “money” to spend available all the time.

Had I gone by funds available in my current account, I wouldn’t have bought stuff so easily.

Buying with credit cards was ultra-casual at first and then gradually it became normal.

4. Window Shopping

The other day, I took out an old cosmetic bag while decluttering the wardrobe.

I was shocked to see a collection of makeup inside.

I don’t know why I had bought so many eye pencils among many others!

They reminded me of mindless shopping habits: I’d amble down the busy street, popping into a fancy shop and browsing a range of colourful makeup. And I’d walk out with one or two that I didn’t really need. Duh!

I no longer shop in high streets.

5. Buying the First Thing

When I wanted to buy something – there were a lot of them, apparently -, I’d buy at a first opportunity.

Everything was about convenience and speed than the price.

Price comparison for the sake of saving a few dollars here and there? No thanks.

Now I spend days reading about reviews to make sure I buy what I really “need” and at the best price.

Oftentimes, I’d end up not buying at all.

6. Upgrading Phone Every Year

Paying extra so I could get the latest gadget.

It was my vanity in play at its highest!

The existing phone worked fine and I didn’t use two-thirds of the features in it.

I really didn’t have a good reason for an upgraded version.

Now I love and cherish everything I own.

There’s no need to replace them unless they die on me.

7. No Budgeting

I’ve always been a spontaneous person.

So, planning didn’t come naturally to me.

I loved surprises, chance meetups, the unknown places or random happenings.

Life was more fun this way.

Budgeting felt like a major restriction on my free spirit seeking / independent nature, taking all the fun out of life.

Now I budget, of course.

Started with cutting all my expenses to the bone which made budgeting so much simpler with only a few things to list on my budget.

With budgeting, I feel grounded and in control. 

8. Spending as a Means of Emotional Therapy

Everything related to eating out, takeaways, window shopping and impulsive travelling may fall under this.

But I think it’s worthwhile a separate mention.

I was never crazy about shopping. Or stuff I bought.

When you buy your favourite dress or shoes and return home, what do you usually do?

I don’t know for sure but I imagine most people are eager to put on the new dress, stand in front of a mirror, examine from all different angles and feel happy with a new addition.


I’d find the dress in the same shopping bag a few days later.

Wash it and, once it dries, put it away.

I took the odd shopping trips as a form of emotional therapy.

Since I’ve dived deep into personal development, I no longer use shopping trips as a therapy session and have learned to cultivate peace and contentment within.

9. Bank Fees / Late Fees

My warped mind used to think that, in the grand scheme of things, odd $5, $10 or $20 fees were nothing.

I’d thrown away my hard-earned money just like that.

Now I have a direct debit payment set up for all bills and watch my accounts like a hawk.

Final Thoughts

Through bad money habits mentioned above, I’ve learned that mastering a money game isn’t about earning or spending it. It’s about keeping it.

For a long time, I’ve held on to a seemingly valid excuse for my poor money management: I didn’t have a role model.

With so many recourses available these days, they’ve become a real excuse.

Now I learn as much as I can about money, making spending difficult for myself, mastering the money game fully, paying off debt and building a financially independent.

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