Your biggest money mistakes -- and how to avoid them

Living beyond your means

Your credit card is filled with charges for expensive dinners, designer clothing and luxury vacations — and the balance due far exceeds your ability to pay.

"Too many people take on debt hoping that their financial situation will change and they’ll be able to pay it off in the future," author Regina Leeds says. "The problem is that it almost never happens, and, in the process of spending uncontrollably, you may end up with a low credit score or bankruptcy."

Smart move: Create a budget and stick to it.

"A budget is not a straightjacket," Leeds says. "It’s really a realistic picture of how much (money) is coming in and how much is going out."

A budget should include line items for indulgences like entertainment and travel, but it’s essential to take care of obligations — mortgage, utilities, debts and savings — and save for the big-ticket items instead of charging them and hoping to pay them off at some future date.

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