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By: Charlestien Harris

Memorial Day is right around the corner, and on this special holiday, we remember and honor those brave individuals who gave their life in service to our country. As it’s a federal holiday, many Americans will also be off work, enjoying time with loved ones. And as they do with nearly every major holiday, retailers will be out in force promoting sales and special pricing on everything from cars to clothing. While we certainly encourage saving, it can be easy to fall into a money trap during these events, so in preparation for Memorial Day, I want to share five money mistakes to avoid during the holiday (and any other time for that matter).

Unnecessary Spending. This is spending that can be so very easy to do. I also like to call it “ghost” or “phantom” spending. These are unplanned purchases made because the opportunity arose, and we chose to spend that money at that time. Sometimes the littlest items can do the most damage to a budget when you are trying to stay on track with your finances. Spending just $20 per week on random items can cost you $1,040 per year, which could go toward making an extra credit card or car payment!

Living off your Credit Cards. An increasing number of Americans are willing to pay double-digit interest rates on gasoline, groceries, and other items that are consumed long before the credit card balance is paid, and this practice can be very costly. Credit card interest rates make the price of the charged items more expensive than using cash. Using credit can also lead to spending more than you earn.

Paying for unused or under used services. There are certain services that you pay for month after month or year after year that you may or may not use on a regular basis such as full cable television packages, streaming subscription services, or gym memberships. Often, these services are heavily promoted at introductory discounts during holiday, which can often lead to contracts that increase in price over time, putting you further behind your money goals. If you absolutely must have one of these services, shop around and always read the fine print.

Not having an emergency fund. Though not specific to a holiday, this is a money mistake that can impact you at any time. Most households today live paycheck to paycheck, and an unforeseen event can easily become a financial disaster if you are not prepared. It’s smart to have at least six months to a year of income set aside for life’s little (and big) emergencies. Unemployment or changes in the economy can quickly drain your savings and place you in a cycle of debt. An emergency fund can often be the difference between keeping or losing your house or car.

Not having a financial plan. Maps are commonly used to give direction when we are trying to arrive at a certain destination. Your financial future depends on what direction you are going right now. You need to know where you have been and where you want to be financially. Creating this roadmap should be a priority. Sometimes this task can be overwhelming, but you can relax because there is help available. Southern Bancorp has Credit/HUD Certified Counselors on staff that can assist you with this part of your financial journey. Just email us at You also take advantage of our financial resource library at

If you really want to avoid these costly financial mistakes, you can start by keeping an eye on the little expenses that add up quickly, then move on to watching the big expenses. Try not to add new debts to your list of payments and keep in mind that being able to make a payment is not the same as being able to afford the purchase. Finally, make saving a portion of what you earn a monthly priority, this action step should also be combined with spending time developing a sound financial plan for now and for the future.  

Have a safe, memorable, and financially fit Memorial Day! For additional information on this and other financial topics you can email me at or call me at 662-624-5776. Until next month—Stay financially fit!