Drawing up an unrealistic budget is a mistake many people make when dealing with their personal finances, according to Dave Pickett.

Pickett, a financial and estate planning consultant to Aetna Life Insurance and Annuity Co., says inexperienced money-planners are overly optimistic."Instead of preparing a budget based on what they think is reasonable, they should begin by listing all expenditures for a few weeks," he says. "Once a person knows where the money goes, they'll know where they can cut back."