Football star Terrell Owens said these are some of ‘the most idiotic’ purchases we can make. Pros say avoiding those kinds of expense traps could save you big bucks

During his NFL career, Terrell Owens says he “got sucked into wanting to be like everybody else, the guys with the Mercedes and all the flashy cars and jewelry.”

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Former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens played 15 seasons, earning an estimated $80 million dollars from salary and endorsements, according to But he lost much of that, he told GQ, and he more recently shared with Nerdwallet that after being drafted and witnessing the over-the-top lifestyle of other professional athletes, he “got sucked into wanting to be like everybody else, the guys with the Mercedes and all the flashy cars and jewelry.” Owens added: “I think those are some of the most idiotic purchases I think players can do, especially when they don’t have that money in the bank account to really pay for that stuff.” 

And he noted: “My advice to any fan or athlete out there: Just don’t live beyond your means.” (That’s simple advice that could help you save money, especially now when many savings accounts are paying more than they have in a decade — see the best savings account rates you may get now here).

Pros say living beyond your means is common for many of us, and can be very costly. “What you think is a lot of money may not really be a lot of money. It takes more money than you might think to generate enough income to sustain yourself and your family in the standard of living you’re used to. If you’re 40 years old and you have $1 million dollars and then you stop working, you can only spend about $30,000 per year without risking running out of money,” says certified financial planner Gordon Achtermann at Your Best Path Financial Planning. 

How to ensure you live within your means

Learning to live within your means is a key way to achieve financial stability, says certified financial planner Anthony Ferreira at WorthPointe Wealth Management. “The best part is it scales, the more you make, the more you can spend, just learn not to spend more than you make,” says Ferreira. Here’s how to live within you means so you can save more and achieve financial security. (See the best savings account rates you may get now here.)

1. Calculate your net worth

Sometimes people think they have a lot of money because their income is high, but calculating your net worth can help you really understand what you have — and where you might be falling short on paying down debt and saving for emergencies, retirement and other goals.

“Add up the value of everything you have that you can sell including stocks, bonds, funds, bank accounts, savings bonds and your house. These are your assets. Then, add up the amount of money you owe on mortgages, credit card debt, student loans and any other loans. These are your liabilities. Your net worth equals your assets minus your liabilities,” says Achtermann.

2. Identify money goals

Achtermann says it’s crucial to have a savings goal. “Most people should aim to save 15% to 20% of their gross income every month. The more you save the sooner working becomes optional. If you have a workplace retirement plan like a 401(k), put as much as you can into that each month,” says Achtermann.

In 2023, the maximum amount someone can put into their 401(k) is $22,500 — plus an extra $7,500 if you’re 50 years old or older.  But before contributing the maximum amount to your retirement or another savings fund, consider paying down any debt you have, especially if it’s plagued by high interest rates.

3. Track your spending

Keep track of every dollar you spend for 2 to 3 months. “Your tracking list should put every dollar that goes out into a category such as groceries, rent or mortgage, utilities, dining out, entertainment, insurance and loan payments. Try to make the everything else category as small as possible and notice what amounts are surprisingly high to you — that’s where you need to cut spending,” says Achtermann.

4. Keep separate bank accounts

“One strategy I use with my clients is to keep the funds out of their everyday checking account and put it either in an investment account or an alternative saving account. People tend to spend more when they see that their balances are high,” says certified financial planner Andrew Feldman of AJ Feldman Financial. 

5. Avoid impulse purchases

Avoiding impulse buys and staying in the black go hand in hand. In terms of managing everyday spending, particularly on credit cards, Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at LendingTree, says you should be plan ahead and be thoughtful. “You can’t avoid every expense, but the ones that tend to wreck your budget are the splurges and impulse buys. Those are absolutely fine every once in a while and in moderation, but done too often and in too big a way, they can be devastating,” says Schulz.

If you have a bank account chock full of cash, Owens says that it can be easy to make frequent thoughtless purchases. “Sometimes at that moment you think a purchase is very well calculated…but in the long run you’re like ‘Ah, I don’t think I should’ve bought that,’” says Owens.

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