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A money journey isn’t a linear, straightforward path. It’s very unlikely you’ll wake up one day, decide you’re going to get out of debt, and be done with it in six months. Life isn’t like that; we’re not robots. We face twists and turns, ladders and snakes, breakthroughs and dead ends. I speak from experience. I’ve taken three steps forward and five steps back. One to the left, five steps forward and three steps sideways. Yep, I’ve been there.
Ups and Downs Affect All of Us
Over the past 5-6 years, I’ve cried tears of frustration when things weren’t going as fast as I wanted them to. I cried tears of joy when I reached my first £1,000 savings goal! That might seem trivial to some people, but for me, it was a huge deal. For the first time in my life, I’d allowed myself to keep money and not fritter it away.
Then, I got scared when I made a wrong choice with my first investment. But I used the experience to learn from it and turned it around.
Then I became consumer-debt free. It was a huge moment for me. I absolutely love the fact I don’t have that debt in my life anymore, but it wasn’t without tribulations. I’ve consistently paid off debt, but there were months where I couldn’t pay off as much as usual. Or, I added to it. But I continued to pay it off. So, as you can see, it’s really important to recognise that your money journey isn’t a series of consistent wins; mistakes and hiccups do happen.
It’s a Journey, Not a Destination
The one thing I have done consistently is to just keep going in the face of it all. That really is the key to get back on track when things go wrong. When you keep going, you pick up the learning tools and insights along the way. You get to see the changes and redirection you need to take.
I’ve saved money, consistently. And yet, there have been months where I’ve had to take money out of my savings, and it’s felt like a step back. I’ve also read books, listened to audios, and learned more about how money works from other people’s mistakes and triumphs. Even when some months my progress didn’t go according to plan, I kept going, regardless, and you should too.
Do I always consistently budget? No.
Am I always sensible with my money? Actually, no…!
Do I always make sure I save and invest? A big, resounding, YES.
The money I’ve invested is sacred. I will never, ever, ever touch my investments — until I want to retire. But on the other side of that, I can be confident that my savings are there to cushion me for emergencies if I suddenly need to make a purchase. My savings are also there as sinking funds for Christmas and birthdays.
So, some savings are there to be spent, but I try to make sure that I’ve always got something aside for emergencies.
What should you do if you fall off the money journey wagon?
Give yourself a break
First of all, be kind to yourself, okay? Everyone makes mistakes. There’s no point in being angry with yourself, it’s part of the process of learning. And if you’ve read anything by Brené Brown, you’ll be familiar with her work regarding vulnerability.
She talks about how it can feel difficult when we’re learning anything new. We set our hearts on getting it right the first time, and can be really harsh with ourselves when we don’t. We need to recognise that and accept that it doesn’t have to be right the first time. It’s okay to make mistakes.
Analyse the problem
Secondly, analyse the situation objectively. If you overspent, what happened? Was it a particularly stressful month? Did you go away on holiday, or was it Christmas? Was the going off course a result of something unplanned, like lockdowns? For example, in lockdown 1.0 especially, so many people spent money excessively. You only had to look on Facebook or Instagram to see the evidence.
That kind of spending is a response to stress and boredom, among other things. Were strong emotions involved? Guilt? Shame? Happiness? Perhaps there was a cause for celebration. It’s really useful to consider these things because it can help you to make plans to prevent it happening again. Try to leave the emotion out of it and analyse it objectively. Consider it an experiment to see what works, what doesn’t, and how you can improve.
If you’ve identified a particular stressful event or strong emotion that led to overspending/unplanned spends, now is the opportunity to address it. Think about what you need to do to not feel like that or overcome those feelings. Maybe it’s just temporary, and you’re confident that next month will be fine.
I had this problem when I was doing my exams (around 18 months ago now). For me, it was the stress and anxiety around the type of exam; one I really wasn’t happy about doing. It was really unsettling me, and I was massively overspending. Overspending on courses, books and materials. I went to see a hypnotherapist; I bought essential oils, crystals — all sorts of things to try and manage my emotions and my anxiety.
It wasn’t until afterwards when I was analysing all of my spending that I realized it was the stress that had caused it. Once the exam was over, the stress went away and once again my spending was under control.
You might have just been affected for a short period, which is why there’s no point getting angry at yourself. Life happens. On the other hand, if it’s happening on a consistent basis and you’re stressed often, what can you do to mitigate it? Do you need to include an allowance in your budget to help with that? My advice is to reset your budget and try again. Don’t give up because something went wrong. Just rinse, and repeat, and do this every month.
Budgets are not rigid; they’re fluid in the same way that life is fluid. If you know there’s additional expense round the corner, adjust your budget that month to compensate for it.
Get systems in place
Thirdly, what can you put in place to try and avoid making the same mistake again? It could be automatic savings with apps like Plum, or Chip. Do you pay off your credit card via. direct debit, or do you have to manually pay it off?
What about investing? Have you set something up to invest monthly?
And finally, what about tracking? Do you have a process in place to sit down with your money and check on it from time to time?
Are you trying to do too much?
If you are consistently overspending, could it be that you are trying to do too much all at once? While this is admirable, perhaps you need to reduce your savings rate to give yourself some breathing space. Perhaps you actually need to take your foot off the pedal a little so that you’re not having to constantly dip into your savings — which can happen if your budget isn’t right.
If you are trying to “do it all” and it’s burning you out, take a look at the lynch-pin goal. What is that one goal that will help move all of the others forward? Focus on that one… F.O.C.U.S = FollowOne Course Until Success.
Join a like-minded group to keep you on track
Finally, find your own cheerleading squad. Find a friend or a group of like-minded people who all want to do better with their money like you. That will keep you on track as much as your own actions. If you’re surrounded by people who love finance and are interested in growing wealthy, you will too. It’s been shown that you are the sum of the five people you most hang around.
Right now, an online group is an ideal place to connect, like my private members club, the Abundance Clinic Membership. If you use the code TAKE10 at the checkout, you’ll get $10 off the first month! The Abundance Clinic consists of a group of women who are focused on their money the same way you are, working towards the same outcome. Whether that be getting out of debt, building wealth, starting investments, or just empowerment around money.
You’ll be able to access exclusive content, join zoom calls, and be supported by an amazing group of ladies with the same goals and dreams as you. They’ll cheer you on and help you up when things go wrong. Imperfect action is still action.
Consistency is key. There will be months where things will feel hard. But I promise you; keep moving forward and it will change for the better over time.
“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.” ~ Brené Brown
Until next time,