3 money mistakes that will come back to haunt you

Vampires, werewolves – that’s kid stuff compared to seeing a frighteningly empty bank account

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It was an all-you-can-eat buffet, costing around $12.95, as Mim King recalls. About 10 years ago, King, a professional organizer and money manager in St. Paul, Minn., learned that one of her clients had gone to a restaurant, and he was determined to eat all he could.

“He stayed beyond what most people would consider a reasonable time, simply in order to eat,” King says. Before the day was over, his family took him to the hospital to get his stomach pumped. King never learned the cost of the hospital bill, but she is betting that it far exceeded her client’s meal.

Everyone makes money mistakes, but if there’s a theme connecting many of them, it’s that if we stopped and thought about it, we’d realize what we’re doing isn’t going to end well. While King’s client didn’t predict he’d wind up in a hospital, if he had thought through his plan beforehand, he might have left after, say, the third or certainly the fourth helping.

[Read: 5 Financial Decisions That Sound Smart But Are Really Dumb.]

In that spirit, here are a few common money management mistakes – and why these decisions are likely to haunt you.

Going to Graduate School Without Thinking It Through

Why it will come back to haunt you: Graduate school isn’t cheap. Price tags are all over the map, ranging from a relatively low $21,000 a year for business school at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Management to $63,200 a year at Harvard Business School. The last thing you need is to graduate and realize you really aren’t cut out for your new career.

The consequences: That realization is not uncommon. Shane Fischer, a criminal defense attorney in Winter Park, Fla., says he sees it all the time. He knows many lawyers who hate what they do “but went to law school because they hadn’t ‘found themselves’ at 22. They racked up $100,000 to $200,000 in debt before their 25th birthday. Unless they hit the lottery or get lucky with a big case, their student loan debt will be an albatross around their neck for the rest of their careers, as they will never make enough money to bounce back from the debt as well as the lost income from taking additional years off to go to school.”

Which may not be so bad if you love what you do. But if you hate it, the decision will plague you, quite possibly for the rest of your life.

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