August 11th, 2011

How to Get Over Your Worst Financial Mistake

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Three minutes cost me nearly $1,000.

This is the story of my most expensive mistake ever.

The Baddest of Bad Days

Sunday was the big day; my boyfriend and I were flying to Hawaii for one whole, glorious week.

After a cab to Oakland Airport for $75 plus tip, we were cutting it pretty close. Instead of the two hour cushion we usually give ourselves, we only had an hour and a half before our 4:30pm takeoff. Then came the fatal blow: in the flurry of packing, shockingly, we misremembered the itinerary—not OAK for Oakland Airport, but SFO for San Francisco Airport.

I almost threw up on my boyfriend’s Hawaiian-print shirt.

We ran to a cabbie who “guaranteed” we’d get to SFO in 30 minutes; add $85 for a cab plus tip (plus breaking some traffic laws).

We sprint to self check-in. An error comes up on the screen: we missed baggage check-in by 3 minutes. The line for the only airline representative loops around so many times my head spins.

Fast-forward through the most stressful 40 minutes imaginable. At 4:35, instead of sitting cramped in coach class dreaming of surf and sand, we were doling out $300 for a flight change the next morning.

Down the drain goes the $350 per night hotel we already charged to our credit card for the week.

Another $85 for a very sad cab ride home followed by yet another $85 for a 5am cab ride the next morning (three hours early at SFO this time).

At a grand total of $980, four cab rides, and 15 hours later… we were finally—and tiredly—starting our Hawaiian vacation.

Getting Over It

We all make mistakes. Missing a flight… to Hawai’i? Not my finest hour.

Like every person faced with regret, I spent a lot of time and energy going over it a million times: what if we left the house five minutes earlier; what if we took a better look at that itinerary; what if we slipped the cabbie $20 to break more speed limits?

Finally, I started nursing my devastation and empty wallet with some reflection. Here’s how I kept sane throughout my airport fiasco, and maybe it’ll help you survive your own financial faux pas:

  1. Breathe. My boyfriend and I could’ve pointed fingers, but instead, we worked together to figure it out. So don’t forget to first breathe and clear your head; it helps me think more clearly and logically without letting emotions get the best of me.

  2. Count your losses. You’re going to do it anyway; go ahead and tally up the damage. Look at that ugly number ($980 for us) and let it sink in. Grieve just a little.

  3. Count your blessings. The bigger picture was that, despite a rough start, my boyfriend and I were fortunate enough to even be able to go to Hawai’i. On vacation, I didn’t think twice about the $980 it took to get there; I was just thankful to be there at all. Handle your financial losses, but focus deeply on the things that money mistakes can’t touch. Remember that in the end, it is only money.
  4. Learn something. Whether it’s catching a flight or going to work, I’ve learned a valuable lesson on being prepared and accounting for unforeseen circumstances. For example, if you’re planning on opening a credit card or getting a loan in the near future, prepare by checking your free credit score at so you can protect yourself from the unforeseen consequences of bad credit. Knowing what your credit situation looks like ahead of time allows you to build up your credit score to have the best chance at being approved. Walk away learning how to be prepared the next time around and you’ll turn your bad situation into a productive one.

At the time, a $1,000 mistake was the most crushing blow, ever. Today, I’m chalking it up as a lesson learned. When mistakes happen, remind yourself to keep your cool, get through it responsibly, look for the silver lining, and always, always remember to double-check the itinerary.

Keep up the Karma,

Justine Rivero, Credit Advisor

What’s your biggest or most expensive financial mistake?

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  1. Holy crap. Why did you spend $85 each time for a cab ride? Don’t you have friends that would’ve driven you, taken BART, etc?

    That alone would’ve saved you $400 of your $1000 mistake…

    Erik at 11:59 am on August 11, 2011
  2. I KNOW!

    Well after our first cab ride, we took cabs to shave off a few minutes from travel time (too bad that didn’t help).

    On cab rides #2, #3, and #4, we were too stressed/upset/tired/anxious/and a little hungry to even consider public transportation. It cost us an arm and a leg to cab it, but at the point that you’re exhausted… and you’ll pay any amount of money just to be on your couch eating a pizza.

    On the plus side, we got a ride from some friends on our return trip from Hawai’i. Friends > cabbies.

    Justine at 3:07 pm on August 11, 2011
  3. I haven’t had this expensive of a mistake(where it adds up all at once ),but I handle these things by taking the hit out of other areas of my budget. For example, if I’m saving up for a new computer, camera, car, etc and I overspend on vacation. I’ll take money out of those categories and cut spending for groceres/etc so that I feel the “hit” for my mistake.

    Never take money out of emergency funds, retirement, or anything equally important.

    TheGooch at 7:39 pm on August 11, 2011
  4. It makes sense that you would pay for a cab ride if you thought it would mean you would make the flight! That seems like a really horrible start to a vacation, but at least it couldn’t get any worse. I’m sorry this happened but I think it’s safe to say you’ll never make these mistakes again, which is a silver lining. You’ll be the safest, most prepared and organized traveler ever!

    CreditShout at 12:36 pm on August 16, 2011
  5. My most expensive mistake so far was an initial hit of $15,000, plus interest and fees totalling probably another $7k over time. I had a… ‘distant’ advisor in college for the first three years, then after signing up for the fourth year and switching advisors (quirk of luck) found out I could have graduated in 6 semesters. I guess I’m lucky he helped me condense my last two semesters into one. I could have attended my first year at a community college and saved another $15k (yep, I chose an expensive private school).

    If I had to do it over again, I’d have worked part time, attended community college for all the basic classes (in my town it’s the same professors moonlighting teaching the same plans and same text books, but 1/10 the cost), and definitely compressed the schedule.

    Even if I take the 7 semesters as “not a mistake”, I also chose to apply my extra curricular classes as a minor, when instead I could have applied them as a masters degree, netting me better earnings upon leaving. (again, 1st advisor missed it and I didn’t know)

    Moral of the story? Get an advisor who knows what they’re doing, a practical person who answers emails and phone calls.

    I guess I’m lucky that I haven’t made many mistakes with money since, but I’m still paying off that one.

    EJ at 8:29 am on August 25, 2011

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