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Back on Track

Life’s been busy for me these last few weeks. Constant work and family emergency travel has really started to drain my bank account, and I’m starting to feel a little out of control with my spending.

I think this happens to a lot of us—one small crisis snowballs into another, and before you know it we’re buying plane tickets for a trip leaving two days from now and our trash cans are full of take out containers because we haven’t been to a grocery store in three weeks.

Am I right? Does this happen to you?

I’m an imperfect person, to be sure. I make personal goals and fail to meet them day after day. I go on spending binges and food binges and Amazon Prime binges and then feel terrible about myself and my life.

But when I finally hit a low point, I find a way to pull myself out. How do I know what my low point is? When my laundry basket is overflowing and I’m contemplating buying new underwear instead of washing my clothes.

My strategy for pulling myself out of a spending slump?  Make a plan!  Always always always make a plan. Here’s what I’m doing to get back on track:

Take a break from all work, just for one day.

I’m writing this on my day off. There’s a ton of stuff I need to accomplish for work, but I have to shut it all off so I can focus on me.  If you can’t take a whole day, try and take a hour—even five minutes if that’s all you have. Give yourself time to refocus.

Review your spending with an open heart.

This morning I took a look at my checking account to identify my spending patterns for the last few weeks. It’s something I would do anyway, but I want to see where I’ve been so I can figure out WHY I’ve been spending all that money. For me, I think a lot of this starts with not giving myself enough time in the morning to get my stuff together and fix a hearty breakfast and refreshing lunch. If I get coffee and a bagel in the morning, that snowballs into “allowing” myself to have lunch out and then why not dinner too?  I also do a lot of compulsive shopping that I think is rooted in feelings of panic and insecurity, but that’s for a different post (really, I’ve written like 3 drafts already. It’s coming soon.)

Make a mini-budget for the next week.

This helps me reset my spending habits by hyperfocusing on the next few days. I know where every penny of my money is going the next seven days, and I have a non-monetary reward set up for each day I follow that budget.

Make a meal plan. 

I’m not one of those people who preps 27 meals in advance, but I will sketch out what my main proteins and vegetables will be for the week so I know what I have in the fridge.

Go to bed early.

I’ve already written about the link between sleep deprivation and financial loss. Here’s another place where getting more sleep can help get your bank account in order. When I stay up late, I wake up late, which means I’m rushing in the morning without time for prepping my breakfast and lunch.

Tell a friend what you’re doing.

I know a lot of my friends are in the same boat. Talking about our struggles with finances and compulsive needs to spend helps to demystify money and destigmatize financial struggle. You’ll feel better knowing you aren’t the only one.

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