You had some big financial goals for yourself, but you blink and before you know it it’s the end of the month. It’s that moment when you realize you haven’t checked in on your goals or your money at all, YIKES! You’ve fallen off track. Life’s been so busy, which has meant more take-out and eating on the run, which you know isn’t good for your bank account. You’ve been ignoring your budget (purposefully or not). You haven’t checked your credit card statement and you’re scared to check your credit score because you are confident you have missed payment.
Take a breath, and know that you are not alone. This happens to everyone, and you can get back on track. The fact that you are here reading this is a great sign! Let’s dive into what steps that can get you back on track.
Questions to ask yourself:
What do you think led to you getting off track? Were you working with budgeting tools that didn’t work? Did something change with your financial situation? Are you trying to work with a budget that is not aligned with what is important to you? Or, maybe your budget is completely void of any fun at all and only focused on saving or paying down debt?
In my experience, when someone gets off track with their money management, it is usually some combination of the following:
- They are trying to make an unrealistic budget work.
- They don’t have any systems in place to make managing their income, spending and expenses easy.
- They are trying to strictly follow a set of budgeting rules that don’t fit their life-think square peg, round hole!
- They are VERY focused on one goal, like growing their savings account or paying down credit card debt. They’re so focused that they forget to consider their overall financial situation.
How can YOU get back on track with your money?
Usually, when someone gets off track it’s because of either their budget or system.
Do a quick check of where you are. While you may be off track, you’re likely not as far off as you think! Look at your bank account balances, current debt obligations, and review your spending for the last month or two. It can be helpful to separate your spending based on needs and wants. This can give you an idea of what really happened.
Make a list of all of your financial priorities. Are you trying to save money, focus on debt repayment, and learn everything you can about money management? Trying to do all the things at the same time is difficult and means less chance of success. It’s more challenging from both a financial and mental perspective. It’s okay not to do everything at once! Pick your top priority and put your focus on that.
Think about what happened to get you off track. Brainstorm ideas for what you can do when those situations come up again because chances are they will. Having a plan for how you will navigate a similar challenge in the future will help you stay on track.
Check-in with your monthly budget. Has anything changed? Do you need to allocate more money to fixed expenses? Has the rising cost of living made the amount for variable expenses, like groceries, challenging to stick to? Maybe you want to start all over again and build a brand new budget with what you’ve learned about yourself. If you haven’t already, include things that don’t happen every month in your budget. Car repairs, annual payments, and gifting can derail your budget if they aren’t part of your plan.
Maybe your financial planning wasn’t the issue, and your budget is pretty rock solid for your current situation. If this is the case, chances are your systems (or lack thereof) got you off track. If you’re wondering what I’m talking about, this is an area for you to focus on! It’s a red flag for me when I see someone using one chequing and one savings account to try to manage their personal finances. By finding a way to create separation for different types of spending, you can make your life easier.
Here are a few things you can set up to make things easier:
- An account for your fixed expenses.
- A spending account for variable expenses like gas, groceries and restaurant spending.
- Savings accounts for different purposes – some of which I mentioned earlier.
The key here is to give your money a job as soon as possible by moving it to different accounts. That way you can see at a glance how you are doing. This is especially true for a spending account for variable expenses. Typically, people make different spending decisions when there is a fixed amount of money to spend each month or payday.
There are several no-fee online accounts available here in Canada. Often, you can even set these accounts up for yourself.
Do separate accounts not feel right for you? Check out these other options!
What are the big takeaways I want you to have?
Don’t beat yourself up for getting off track! Consider this simply your sign to roll up your sleeves and use this time to refocus.
Try new things! If what you’re doing isn’t working, change it as often as you need to until you find what works!
While I didn’t mention it above, I want to encourage you to ask for help. We can’t be experts in everything. While I love all things personal finance, I’m NEVER doing maintenance on my car because I’d have no idea what I’m doing!
Maybe you have a friend or family member who loves personal finance or a financial advisor you really love? If you’re debt is really out of hand Debt.ca credit counsellors are an excellent resource. All it takes is to reach out and ask for help today!