When Procrastination Costs You Money


For whatever reason, I’ve always had an issue with procrastination. Objectively I know it hurts me, but it’s something that I largely haven’t been able to shake. It’s just hard for me to work well until I have a deadline fast approaching.

I’ve tried some different techniques to fight my procrastinating tendencies, such as creating a bunch of mini-deadlines along the way towards a big goal. Those can help, but there are still plenty of times I let things slide. Most of the time it leads only to regret, but sometimes procrastinating actually costs me some real money. In fact it just happened again recently, and once I got past the self pity-party I got to thinking about some of the bigger ways that procrastinating can cost us money.

How procrastination cost me $80

Several months back my wife and I decided we wanted to cut loose from cable. But we wanted the ability to stream Netflix, and we also wanted to be able to watch DVDs and Blu-rays. That sent me on a quest.

After evaluating multiple options, I decided upon a Blu-ray/DVD player that had wi-fi capabilities AND came extremely highly recommended. On top of that, Amazon had it deeply discounted at $80. It was a steal.

So what did I do? I waited. There wasn’t really any good reason for it, but I justified it by saying that we hadn’t figured out the rest of our setup yet (we also wanted a new TV and stand). Eventually we got the rest of it figured out, but now the same player was $160 on Amazon. Damn you procrastination!

But wait! I found a refurbished version on eBay for $80. Score! So I ordered the player, but when it got here we had some issues. When I went through the setup I got a message that I couldn’t connect to wi-fi unless I had an adapter, even though the user manual didn’t mention anything about an adapter. Again I got lazy and pushed off the chore of either figuring out what I was doing wrong or buying an adapter.

Fast forward to three days ago. I finally work up the energy to tackle this problem and again I can’t get past the message saying I need a wi-fi adapter. So I look up the adapter online and it turns out the thing costs $160. Well obviously I didn’t want to pay that, so I did a little more research and eventually had an epiphany. So I went over to the player, flipped it over, checked out the product tag, and yep, just as I thought, they had sent me the wrong model. I had paid for the new one and they had sent me an old one (in the newer box too!). In other words, I got hustled.

Unfortunately, because of my procrastination it’s too late to return it. I’ll go through the credit card company to see if I can challenge the charge, but I don’t have high hopes.

Since it will be more cost effective to completely replace the player than to buy a wi-fi adapter, this player was a complete waste of $80. All due to procrastination. I may be able to sell it and recoup some of the cost, but we’ll see.

How can procrastination cost you in other ways?

Obviously this is just a single isolated example. And $80 is hardly the end of the world. But there are many ways in which procrastinating can cost you some big bucks.

Have you started saving for retirement yet? Just the other day I talked about the insignificance of your investment returns during those first few years of saving. But do you know what is important? Your contributions.

The earlier you start putting money away for retirement the longer it has to grow, and the more likely you are to have enough to actually stop working at some point. Even better, you can assure that your kids won’t have to support you, allowing them the freedom to do what they want with their own money. Waiting to start can easily cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars down the road.

Want a simple way to get started investing without having to learn all the ins and outs? Read this article.

Life insurance is another area where I see a lot of procrastination. Too many parents either don’t have it, or assume that whatever they have through their employer is enough. It’s not. And yes, you need it. Good life insurance makes sure you can provide for your family even when you’re not around. You can read through my four-part series on life insurance to determine your own needs:
-Part 1: When do you need life insurance
-Part 2: How much life insurance do you need?
-Part 3: Choosing the right type of life insurance
-Part 4: How to buy life insurance

For another fun topic, have you handled your estate planning? You can review the basics here, but having a will in place, guardians selected for your children, beneficiary designations handled and the like can not only make sure that your wishes are carried out and your family is protected, but can save you thousands of dollars in court costs and other legal fees that might be required without them.

How about credit cards and other bills? Waiting to pay could cause late fees or interest payments. Missed payments could even cause your credit score to drop, and if you do it enough times you might face higher interest rates when borrowing or you may have trouble borrowing at all.

The conclusion? Don’t procrastinate!

Profound right? Ok, so I’m obviously not telling you anything you haven’t heard before. And the truth is that none of us are perfect and we’re all going to procrastinate from time to time. But if I’ve learned one thing in my life it’s that it’s almost always better to start something you know is important, even if it scares you. I can’t think of one time I regretted starting something, but I can think of many times I regretted waiting. And if there’s money at stake, that’s all the more reason not to put it off.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t be like me. Get off your butt and nip procrastination in the bud before it gets you too.

Photo courtesy of Trevor

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33 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • You hit me there Matt! I always forgot to pay my internet bills before the due time. I never imagined how much the penalty cost. 🙁

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      Those late fees can definitely add up. I have an email folder where all my bill notifications go and then I review it once per week to schedule payments. Makes it pretty easy to keep on top of everything.

  • Cash Cow Couple October 25, 2013

    We’ve all been there before Matt. Sometimes, it bites me on the other end. There was a very nice blender that we wanted and it was discounted like 50%. I waited around thinking about it and eventually lost the opportunity. Little things like that are just so annoying.

    Certainly it’s better to get it done now.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      That’s pretty much exactly the same as my personal example here. Waited to long and the good deal was gone. If you know you want something, best to jump on it when the price is good.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money October 25, 2013

    I think my problem is simply running out of time. Inevitably we won’t be able to get to all the things we want to accomplish in a given day/week/month/year, so it’s important to prioritize. I’ve certainly put off some small repair work around our home, but that’s because I haven’t prioritized it as high as other things (like working on my site). Procrastination can hurt you in the long run, but I think it’s even more important to prioritize what can be put off and what shouldn’t be put off.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      Great point DC. Simply getting things done shouldn’t be the goal. It should be to get the important things done. Well said.

  • Edward - Entry Level Dilemma October 25, 2013

    I’ve never had an example that big, but I’ve had plenty of smaller examples.
    I was charged $7.95 for a modem fee because I hadn’t returned the old DSL modem yet a month after I cancelled my DSL service.
    A few years ago, Big Lots had this mini-sewing machine for $25. It certainly wasn’t fancy or had all (or any of) the bells and whistles. But it would get the job done for re-stitching torn seams and sewing patches. But I didn’t get it that day because we were in the process of moving. After we moved I went back and they no longer sold it.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      That modem example is something I would do and then just feel stupid. But oh well, life happens.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules October 25, 2013

    Ouch, sorry to hear that Matt. I had a huge problem with procrastination when I was younger and would run into things like this as a result. I’ve now swung to the other end and don’t allow myself enough time to do something. Perhaps some day I’ll get to a healthy balance? 🙂

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      I tend to jump from thing to thing as well, which as you say is also harmful. We can all hope for someday, haha.

  • moneystepper October 25, 2013

    I’m getting better with procrastination, but still sometimes prioritize tasks that I want to do over ones that I need to do (especially if the latter is more complicated). I’m sure everyone suffers from it at some point!

  • Kyle James October 25, 2013

    For me, procrastinating on home repairs and maintenance has bitten me in the butt. Just recently I failed to fill the cracks in my asphalt driveway and they ended up being expensive to repair. A $20 can of crack repair would have saved me over $350. Doh!!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      Classic example. I’ve done the same thing with car repairs. Best to get on top of it early.

  • Shannon Ryan October 25, 2013

    I’m pretty good about not procrastinating but I am guilty of trying to do too much. Sometimes everything doesn’t get done when I wanted, which may not cost me anything but my pride. Or my sanity. 🙂 But I do see every day the cost of procrastination when it comes to investing and delaying purchasing life insurance, etc.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      As DC said, figuring out your priorities on focusing on fewer things can be a really positive thing. There’s no inherent value in getting a lot of things accomplished. Cutting out the useless to focus on the important is where you want to be.

  • Done by Forty October 25, 2013

    Matt, I have a lot of the same tendencies, especially with purchases. A new hiking backpack I’ve been eyeing went on sale at REI but instead of buying it (and just selling my old one), I am waiting. Why? I really have no idea…

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      That’s totally something I would do as well. So did you get inspired to make the decision?

  • E.M. October 25, 2013

    I am a procrastinator, too, and likely would have found myself in the same situation. I hate when the return date passes and you’re stuck with something. I hope the credit card company is able to do something for you at least. I had never been quite able to solve the procrastination issue with schoolwork, but now I find myself putting off mundane tasks that need to get done.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 25, 2013

      I blame myself only, so I’d almost feel guilty if the credit card fixed it. But I’d still take it. One area where I’ve gotten pretty good about fighting procrastination is with my blog writing, and it’s all about setting fake deadlines for myself. Might be worth a shot with your school work.

  • Tonya October 25, 2013

    ugh! I’m sorry. But you just reminded me that I have to return my library book today. So I should thank you for that! I think procrastination gets the best of all of us at one time or another.

  • Stefanie @ brokeandbeau October 25, 2013

    Procrastination has TOTALLY cost me. I once had an ebay purchase where I was having trouble collecting the payment. I held off on calling customer service for so long that by the time I finally did, the payment had been returned to the sender and I was out my product and shipping fees!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 26, 2013

      Yeah, delaying with stuff like that almost always comes back to bite you. And the most frustrating part is that there’s no one to blame but yourself, just like my own situation here.

  • krantcents October 25, 2013

    I limit my procrastination to cleaning out the garage. I managed to put it off for years. There are no cost considerations. I can still park 2 cars in the garage, but I am running out of storage. I will have to clean out some record boxes to shift this years records at the end of the year. I can do it over Christmas vacation or sooner. I plan on doing a little bit each week till the end of the year.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 26, 2013

      Doing just a little bit at a time is a nice way to approach it. Much less daunting than trying to tackle it all at once.

  • Peter October 25, 2013

    $80 for procrastination is cheap. I had a friend who lost thousands by procrastinating in doing his taxes. Great post.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 26, 2013

      Procrastinating on taxes is a great example that I missed. I think a lot of people probably miss out on money by not paying closer attention to their taxes sooner.

  • The College Investor October 26, 2013

    This is such a common occurrence, I’m glad you shared it and highlighted how waiting can cost you. It’s even more important with the big ticket stuff like insurance!

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 26, 2013

      Agreed. Insurance isn’t an incredibly fun thing to pay for, until you need it. Then you’ll be kicking yourself for going without it.

  • Lisa vs. the Loans October 28, 2013

    When it comes to flights, I’ve heard the opposite – waiting until the last minute can get you some serious savings! Even event tickets – the BF and I once got lower level seats to a Golden State Warriors game for $8 each on the day of!

    But I think when you see a great deal, it’s usually wise to snatch it up right away rather than to wait – either the price will go higher, or the item won’t be available anymore.

    • Matt @ momanddadmoney October 28, 2013

      I don’t know. My personal experience has always been that the longer I wait for a flight the more expensive it gets. I think it’s possible to wait until the real last minute and potentially get a good deal, but I’m not usually willing to be that flexible. Sports for sure you can absolutely get a good deal by waiting. But I wouldn’t call that procrastinating, since it’s part of a plan.

      By the way, I would love to go to a Warriors game. Always seems like a great crowd there. And I love watching Curry play.

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