Turn Failure Around

You created a budget. You set goals. You vowed to pay off your debt and save. But then, in practice, things don't work out quite the way you planned. Maybe your savings account is empty at the end of the month. Maybe you used your credit card a little more than you wanted to. What should you do? Instead of being discouraged and seeing this as a permanent state, look at it as temporary setback. By reexamining your plan and making a few adjustments, you can succeed!

How realistic is your plan?
One of the most common reasons for failure is unrealistic expectations. For example, perhaps you only allocated $25 a month for food because you thought you could live solely off of Ramen noodles and rice. A few days of doing this diet probably told you that this is not sustainable. Take a good look at things that you have not been able to achieve on a regular basis, and examine if you honestly believe you can achieve them in the future. If you don’t believe you can, make changes and set new benchmarks that are more doable. Don't forget about the importance of spending less than you earn and saving. If you increase some expenses and are facing a budgetary shortfall, look for other expenses that you can reduce.

Is there anything you forgot to account for the first time around?
It is not unusual for people to forget to account for something when they first create a budget and set goals. (Periodic expenses, such as gifts, vacations, car repairs, or insurance, are often the culprit.) Then when they pop up, you don't have the money for them. Incorporate into your financial plan anything you forgot the first time around. You may want to review a budgeting worksheet to make sure you don't forget anything the second time around.

Are there any triggers you can avoid?
Just like you may avoid going to a bakery or a buffet when you are on a diet, when you are on a budget, there may be places you want to avoid. For example, if you cannot leave a bookstore without a handful of books, you may want to just order what you need online. If your trigger cannot be avoided, consider just bringing the cash you need there and leaving the cards at home.

What can you do to motivate yourself?
There are several things that you may be able to do to motivate yourself to stay on track, such as putting pictures of your goals on your refrigerator, giving yourself a small reward periodically for being successful, thinking about the negative things that can happen if your don't stick with your plan, and asking friends and family members to encourage you. What will make controlling your finances easier to bear?

Reevaluating and making adjustments is a process, not a one-time action. As life goes on, you will face new challenges and probably make new goals. Just remember that with dedication, you can survive and thrive financially whatever comes your way.