Some mistakes can be fixed, but it becomes harder the longer you wait. For example, if you need to lose 10 pounds, that's a lot easier to remedy than if you've let yourself become 100 pounds overweight.

The same logic applies to finances. More than three out of four Americans (76%) have financial regrets, according to a new study of 1,000 adults from Student Loan Hero. That's not great, but the good news is that financial mistakes can be remedied. It might be painful, but some austerity now can make up for the money sins of your past in most cases.

A piggy bank sits on a calculator.

You need to understand your own finances to avoid making mistakes. Image source: Getty Images.

What are America's biggest financial regrets?

Survey respondents were not limited to one choice, and many of the top answers were related. In a broad sense, it's clear that not saving enough and spending too much are major concerns. Some of the study's findings include:

  • 46% regret not saving more money.
  • 50% wish they'd saved more for retirement.
  • 38% regret entertainment purchases, while 33% regret clothes purchases.
  • 51% think they need to cut back on restaurants.
  • 47% regret taking on credit card debt.

Only 24% of those surveyed claimed to have no financial regrets at all. Of the other 76%, the link between spending too much and saving too little is clear. If you regret clothing purchases or eating out at restaurants. you're probably not regretting that you didn't use the money in a different way. You're almost certainly lamenting that you didn't save the cash.

A chart of people's financial regrets.

Image source: Student Loan Hero.

What can you do?

The first step to fixing your finances is knowing where your money goes. Do a financial inventory, and first figure out what your fixed costs are. These include housing, food, transportation, credit card debt, student or other loans, and anything else you can't change on a month-to-month basis.

After that examine your discretionary spending and see where you come out at the end of the month. Are you ahead of the game or adding to your credit card debt?

Once you know your situation, it's important to lay out your goals and set a budget to reach them. If, for example, you want to pay off $3,000 in credit card debt in six months, then you'll need to find $500 to cut from your budget -- or a way to earn that much more.

Be realistic, and work in small bites. Don't budget for only eating cans of soup and taking in five roommates if you're not actually going to do that. Make a plan you can live with, and stick to it. That may not be a quick resolution for your problems, but it can stop you from having future regrets and eventually get you back on track.

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