When I was a kid, I didn’t get into trouble very often. But when I did, it usually came from something I said; one sentence too many that put my mom over the edge. After realizing I’d gone too far when my mom gave me that look, I would inevitably think to myself, “If only I stopped before saying that one last thing.”
Now I’m older and wiser, but that feeling of wishing I had stopped just before that one last thing has emerged in another place in my life — in my finances. It usually comes in the form of spending just a tad over my budget or wishing I had applied more money to retirement or student loan debt in the past years. But when I’m thinking of those past money mistakes, I hear that same script: “If only I had just…”
Money mistakes, missteps, or misunderstandings have a way of haunting us like nothing else in life. Problem is, if we allow that to happen, it’s nearly impossible to move forward. That’s why it’s so important to reconcile your emotions with your finances and find a peaceful harmony — regardless of what happened in the past.
Reconciling Your Emotions and Your Finances
The worst feeling about those moments when I’d realized I’d gone too far with my mom was the know-it-all hindsight script. “Of course, I shouldn’t haven’t said that,” I would think. “Next time, I’ll for sure keep my mouth shut before it’s too late.” But that next time isn’t so helpful this time, is it?
I do the same thing with money. Sure, now it’s easy to understand that when I was 20 I should have started putting money away for retirement. Now it’s easy to understand that I could have made a lot more headway on my student loan debt if I had not signed up for the graduated repayment plan (read: interest only payments) and if I had started making biweekly payments from the beginning. Now it’s easy to understand that you don’t always need to earn a lot to be able to save money, but that cutting back spending and following a solid budget can squeeze savings out of even the lowest of incomes.
While these are valuable learning experiences, all they really do for me now is give me a chance to mentally beat myself up. There’s a fine balance between constructively learning from past mistakes and punishing yourself. Here’s how to strike that balance:
Really. No, really. This isn’t a kumbaya type of to-do. This is extremely important. Have you gotten into credit card debt? Haven’t saved enough money? Don’t know where you’re going in your finances? It’s okay. We’ve all been there. Take a look at the person sitting next to you. They’ve probably been there. Behind you. Yup. The person in the corner office? Guaranteed.
No one is immune to money mistakes so the sooner you forgive yourself, the sooner you can stop punishing yourself.
Admit It — Out Loud
Man, there’s nothing harder than admitting to money mistakes. Just thinking about admitting I had credit card debt to anyone made me feel prickly all over. But NOTHING is more healing that saying it out loud. Because, really, until we can say it out loud, we’re not really even admitting it to ourselves.
Tell your friends, your significant other, your parents. Tell the people you’re most scared to tell. Once you do, your feelings of fear, embarrassment, and shame will wash away and turn into a readiness to take action.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve made peace with past money mistakes, the best way to solve the current problems and ensure that you don’t fall into old mistakes is to make a plan. How are you going to tackle debt? How are you going to make sure you know where your money is going?
Whatever it is you’re dealing with, create a specific, strategic, targeted plan. Build a buffer into your plan for emergencies or missteps. And don’t forget to celebrate milestones along the way!
Building a Strong Financial Future
You know the most important thing to understand about financial mistakes? You’re going to make them again. Hopefully not the same mistakes you’re battling now, but even still, it’s impossible to be perfect.
Embrace being human. When you have a future misstep, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and revisit the steps above. No matter what, you can overcome any obstacles in your way if you’re ready to face ‘em head on!
Shannon McNay is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.