What to do When Life Gives Not Two @#$%’s About Your Budget or Savings Goals

Source Material

Mom, “Don’t let it keep you down”

My personal life…

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

How I Adapt / Adopt / Apply

Tell me, has this ever happened to you? You set a budget then pass on all the fabulous stuff you want that just happens to be “on sale”, in order to scrimp and put some money away in savings. You check your balance, noticing there’s a whopping $200 at the end of the month and you get ready to celebrate. Before the first fist pump is complete, you hear a bang from the dishwasher, smoke and water begin to fill the kitchen. When it’s all said and done, the repair bill costs $198.37.  So much for your savings.  But no matter, you did it once, you can do it again. You spend another month eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, turning down the FIVE invitations every week from your buds to go to happy hour, and this time when you check your balance at the end of the month, you see an amazing $496 in the account. Again, you prepare to do the dance of joy, but somehow, during that first hip sway, you feel a terrible pain in your left leg. One short trip to urgent care later and you come home with $400 worth of plaster on your ankle and calf.

While these are extreme examples, what I’m trying to ask here is this. Have you ever done all you could to finally pay off your debt, put some money in savings, AND pay your bills on time only to have life pop in and throw you off track?

Steven Pressfield names this “force” Resistance:

…any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity. Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these will illicit Resistance.  Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. …It’s aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.

He’s using Resistance to describe what often happens to creatives as they strive to create. I see Resistance in much broader strokes.  It’s the things that happen when the finish line is in view, that then test your resolve and determination to see things through.  For me, most often when it comes to money, it’s like the examples I wrote above. I will have just so much money set aside when something blows up and I need all but maybe a few dollars of my savings to fix it.

In my younger years, back when my credit limit was toast and I routinely had negative balances in my checking account, any kind of financial urgency would drop me into a deep depression which of course was NOT conducive to me making better financial decisions. Fortunately for me (and now my clients with The Next Chapter), I learned a better way to deal when life seems to take a dump on (not just) my financial goals:

  1. Review my journey so far and take note of the successes along the way:  I was able to put aside what little money I had to begin with, so while it sucks I’ve got to use almost all of it for this or that urgency, I’m going to celebrate the fact I had the money at all. I use the moment to take stock, review what strategies worked, which didn’t; I revise my plan and recommit to the process.
  2. Have a five or ten minute pity party: sometimes the “why me, why now” hits me before I can catch myself. As soon as I notice I’m in that space, I give myself a very limited time to feel pitiful. Sometimes, I need to feel what I feel. I set a time limit, used to go so far as set an alarm on my phone; when that time is up / the alarm went off, I knew to pick my chin up off the floor and get to moving. If I haven’t done it already, then I take the time to do step number one.

Your Turn

What do you do now when life hands you the proverbial financial lemons? If you’ve got a tried and true strategy you use to get back on track, share it in the comments. If you DON’T have one, then try one of mine.  Let me know if it worked.  Or even better, based on what you read, develop your own ‘bounce back’ routine and share it with us. We can all benefit from your best practices :-).

Thank you,

The Next Chapter

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