Richard Cushing once said, “Always plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.” There’s a lot of truth to that statement. Failure to plan is the biggest financial mistake you’ll ever make. On Sunday my family was driving home from a weekend camping at the coast. Instead of driving five minutes out of the way to gas up in a coastal town at the beginning of our trek home, we decided to wait. Thirty miles later, with an eighth of a tank of gas left, we hit the next town. But gas was expensive.

My husband decided we could make it to the next town, 24 miles away. We drove on. When it became apparent that we might not make it, my husband started putting the car into neutral and coasting down the hills. He’s a wanna-be NASCAR driver. I cringed.

We made it to the next town and drove into the first gas station we saw. We had 8/10 of a gallon of gas left in the car, and we paid a premium to fill up. And we learned an important lesson.

Not planning will lead to financial disaster.

Perhaps paying a premium for gas won’t put us in the poorhouse, but the concept of not planning will. Let me explain.

Poor Planning Means No Choice

By the time we got to the gas station where we filled up, we couldn’t shop around. We were stuck with whatever that station happened to charge. Had we stopped for gas in the first town, we would have been able to shop for the best gas price, potentially saving us money.

That holds true for other areas of finances, too. When you plan ahead, you can shop for sales on groceries and clothing. You can pick up a great deal on Craigslist, because you know it’s something you will need in a few months.

If you wait until your really need something, you don’t have the luxury of shopping for the best deal. You’re stuck paying the asking price.

Poor Planning at Best Maintains the Status Quo

I’m a big proponent of making a budget. Having a zero based budget means having a plan for every dollar that comes into your home. When you have a plan for your money, you can save for things like vacations, retirement, and big purchases like cars.

When you don’t have a plan for your money, you have no idea where it goes. And from experience, I know that money tends to disappear without a plan. I’ve looked at many a bank transaction from Walmart, wondering what on earth I spent $100 on.

Without a plan for your money, you will never get ahead. You may even go into debt.

Poor Planning Costs More

If you have kids, you know that poor planning costs money. My kids have been involve in many activities which give a price break if you pay in full at the beginning of the school year. When you plan ahead, you can take advantage of those price breaks.

If you pay on time, you pay full price. But the kicker is, if you pay late, there are often late registration fees involved.

This is not only true for school activities, but other expenses as well. Doctor’s offices often give price breaks for cash payment up front. Conferences sell early bird tickets. If you plan ahead for these events, you have the luxury of saving yourself some money. If you don’t plan, you pay late fees or even interest fees if you have to pay for a medical procedure on credit.

There are plenty of ways to save money and get ahead financially. I’ve talked about many of them on my blog. They all boil down to one thing, though, and that is planning ahead. If you don’t plan ahead, you’re making a big financial mistake.

Have you ever paid a price for not planning ahead? What’s your story?