What to Do When Your Financial Plan Goes Off Course

So you’ve already put in a lot of forethought in managing your money. But what if things aren’t running smoothly?
off course

You’ve probably already laid the groundwork by tracking your spending, saving for some long-term goals, and coming up with a game plan for those potentially disastrous “what if” scenarios. That’s great! You might have even experienced gleeful pride in creating such a system and process. But if things start to go haywire, here are a few tips to help you stay the course.

Make slight tweaks to your system

If you have a car, you’ve probably had a run-in with car trouble from time to time. Maybe you heard an alarming rumble coming from your car’s engine and feared your car required a serious—and costly—repair. But after some poking around, you find that your set of wheels just needed a easy fix. Similar to tending to a car issue, it really helps to do a careful inspection as to what areas in your budget could possibly be causing a glitch in your system in handling your money.

For example, you might find that you don’t have enough in your account to cover your rent, and find that you have had to take money out of a savings goal to make up for the difference. In this case, you can pinpoint the problem by taking a look at when certain bills are due each month, which expenses are on auto-pay, and your cash flow.

The answer could be something as small as waiting a couple of extra days before you transfer money from your savings into your checking, or to time things so you mail your rent check so it comes out of your first paycheck of the month and not the second.

When making tweaks, be sure to change only what’s necessary. The key here is to make minor adjustments. After all, creating too many changes at once could create new problems.

Give your budget some breathing room

Say you get hit by an unexpected medical procedure, or your cousin who loves craft breweries paid you a visit and your variable expenses—and beer spending—are higher than usual. Having a little bit of padding with an account buffer helps keep you from being caught off guard financially. Plus, it creates a feeling of abundance in your life, not scarcity. You won’t have to feel as if you need to constantly scrounge around for loose change (unless that’s your jam).

All you’ll need is a week or two of your income stowed away in your checking account. If you want to create a little more padding, you can create a separate buffer account that is closer to a month’s worth of your living expenses. This is a fund that’s kept entirely separate from your main emergency fund, which is anywhere from three to nine months’ worth of your basic expenses.

Don’t overshoot your goals

Being ambitious is great, but there’s a fine balancing act between being gung-ho about what you want and killing yourself to get there. If you’re planning for, say, an epic vacation in the near future or ramping up the pace on paying off your student loans, just make sure you don’t overshoot your time frame. And be realistic with how much you can afford to save. If you’re making too many sacrifices or find that you are constantly playing catch-up in one area of savings, you might just be trying to do too much too soon.

For starters, you can scale things down a bit. Can you push your vacation until next summer or, better yet, go during the off-season so you don’t have to save as much? Would it really be so bad if it took you a couple more years to pay off your student loans? Maybe you need to adjust the amount or extend a deadline for a goal. Or is there something else you could do to help you reach your goals that wouldn’t be so taxing on your time or resources? Give yourself a reality check. Spend some time examining whether the struggle is worth it, and if it’s really working for where you’re at in your life.

Observe your habits

Yes, we know, it’s easier said than done. Sometimes what you think you do and what you actually do can be eerily different. This is where monitoring your spending comes in handy. If you have an account with us, you can use a variety of tools that are at your disposal, including personal financial data to look at your trends and spending habits.

Maybe it turns out that you’re a sucker for the cliché daily latte habit, or you’re inclined to overdo it and party hard around payday, only to suffer the consequences by month’s end. Once you get over any cringe-worthy tidbits of info you discover about your spending ways, you can use that data to make positive changes in the way you save and spend.

Change your outlook

Oftentimes a change in your outlook or attitude toward your spending lends itself to a change in habits. Do you really need to satiate all your material wants, or can you be content with the things that could really add value and boost your happiness? For instance, try a minimalist approach. Instead of thinking you need a sleek fold-up bike to be happy, know that you can be equally content with your trusty road bike. Spending more money will only add clutter and din to your life.

You can also try putting off going to the store to buy something, and see if you can do without it for a few more days. You might be surprised to find that once the impulse to buy something subsides, you’ll forget you wanted it in the first place.

If you find yourself suffering a glitch in your well-thought-out system and approach to handling your money, there’s no need to abandon ship. With a bit of inspection, tweaking, and creative problem-solving, you’ll smooth out any kinks in no time.

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