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My worst money mistake

Image: David Cheskin/PA

This week, I accidentally let my car insurance auto-renew. I cannot believe it. I cannot BELIEVE it.

I’m a money journalist; I’ve written countless articles urging people to compare their car insurance and switch to save money. And yet, through sheer disorganisation, that’s what I did this week.

So now my car insurance is costing me £520 for the year, instead of the £313 that was the lowest quote when I compared premiums.

But this stupid error got me thinking about other money mistakes I’ve made and which was genuinely the worst.

So here as a cautionary tale are my three biggest money mistakes…

[Related link: Check now, could you save on car insurance?]

Buying a house at the peak of the boom

I’ve decided to start with my most expensive mistake. My husband and I bought our first home in December 2007, or what some people might call ‘the peak of the property boom’.

Our first home was on the market at £150,000 but we got it for £142,000. Just a few months later, the value plummeted and it’s now worth around £119,000.

So we lost more than £20,000 thanks to falling prices equity – a pretty costly mistake.

However, while I lost more money on this than anything else, I am not going to count this as my worst money mistake ever. On the one hand, we have yet to sell the house and cement our loss. Maybe we’ll make some of it back.

On the other, I don’t think anyone should see buying their home as a mistake – it’s your home, not an investment.

[Related story: The UK’s most affordable homes]

Investing in Game

Remember when Game went into administration and was bought out? I was particularly upset as I had a number of friends working for the business, but it was also painful as I had invested in them just a few weeks before.

Despite never investing before and knowing relatively little about it, the share price was so low that I was tempted. I decided that the future looked bright for the gaming industry and that Game stock was likely to pick up.

So enthusiastic was I that I forgot I knew nothing at all about buying shares. Perhaps the reason the share price was so low was because people who knew more than me were pulling out.

Anyway, Game went into administration and I lost the lot. But was this my worst mistake ever?

I’ve decided that it wasn’t. While I hoped to make some money, I did understand that it was a gamble and only invested a small amount of cash that I could afford to lose. Which turned out to be handy because I lost it.

[Related feature: Five investing mistakes I no longer make]

Using my student overdraft

I have thought long and hard, and using my overdraft while at university was definitely my biggest money mistake ever. It wasn’t the most expensive, but it was the most unnecessary.

As a student, my bank account came with a pretty big overdraft. Despite having a student loan and a part-time job, I let myself factor that overdraft into my budgeting.

The result was that I graduated in entirely unnecessary debt. My overdraft meant I had a couple of hundred extra pounds a term, but by the end of my four-year degree it was a substantial amount of debt for a graduate.

If I had just worked a few extra shifts a month, I could have avoided using it at all and graduated in a much better position. That was definitely my stupidest and so worst money mistake.

I’ve told you mine…

So now I’ve confessed all in the hope no one else will fall into the same traps, I want to hear about your worst or most expensive money mistakes.

Did you invest in a company that went bankrupt the next day? Did you collect a load of rubbish in the hope it would be worth something eventually? Did you stand guarantor on a friends’ loan, only to have to pay it?

Help others avoid your costliest mistakes (or at least feel a bit better about theirs) by sharing them in the comments section below.

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