March started out with good intentions. So you know what my next sentence is gonna be, right? My execution was terrible. I lost focus pretty quickly. Here are the biggest money mistakes I made last month—and how I plan to avoid them from here on out.
1. I didn’t track my spending.
I had a budget on EveryDollar and everything. But the app won’t work unless you open it. For the first time in seven months, I don’t know what I spent my money on and didn’t save a dime. It’s an empty feeling to have an empty checking account, a paltry savings account and no idea why.
How to avoid this mistake: Create habits or alerts that force you to track spending every day in your budget. I will get back into the habit of recording every purchase at the time of the purchase in my phone. I’ve also set a reminder on EveryDollar so I’ll get that “It’s time to track your purchases” alert every night just in case Plan A fails.
2. I dipped into my Opportunity Fund.
OK. OK. I didn’t dip in it, as much as I jumped 6-feet deep in that sucka and spent almost $450 of the $590 in it. Yeah! Just horrible! I’ll justify some of that spending because I had to pay for a doctor’s visit and took advantage of another English teacher’s departure by buying her kitchen appliances, which I’ll use to start cooking. But the rest of the $450 was spent because of lack of planning and budgeting. I went overboard in the beginning of the month, forgetting to save some cash for later.
How to avoid this mistake: Keep your savings out of sight. My Opportunity Fund is in an online savings account connected to a debit card that charges ATM fees. I. Hate. Fees. So I’ll really have to think about using that money when I consider (1) transferring money from savings to checking and (2) incurring ATM fees to withdraw that money.
3. I didn’t stop digging when I was already in a hole.
When I KNEW I was in the wrong, I didn’t stop myself. For example, I went to Old Navy after already blowing money from my savings. I was simply bored.
How to avoid this mistake: STOP! Just stop! It’s easier said than done, but maybe using the HALT method will help you curb impulsive spending.
- Are you hungry?
- Are you angry?
- Are you lonely?
- Are you tired?
A blogger at Moolanomy describes it like this:
If I feel the urge to buy something outside of my budget, the first thing I think is, “When was the last time I ate?” If you’re hungry, eat something. If you’re angry, let it out to a friend. If you’re lonely, reconnect with your people. Make a call. Or walk to your neighbor’s. Take a nap if you’re tired. If you address basic needs first, you will be less apt to “use” your wallet.
- Will this help me reach my goals? If no, then put it down!
- Do I already have this at home? If yes, then put it down!
- Is this a need or want? If it’s a want, then consider if it’s within your budget. If no, then put it down!
- Will I still want this in 24 hours? Put it down! Wait 24 hours. If you’ve already forgotten about it, then you’re in the clear.
I’m going to see how these methods work on myself in April. Wish me the best!
4. I didn’t have goals.
In January and February, I broke down my goals for the year and the first quarter into action steps for the month. That went to h*ll in March. I had no aim. It’s like a had a GPS, but I started driving without typing in the destination. Silly, right?
How to avoid this mistake: Uhhh, write down your goals. I’m a genius, I know. But seriously, consider your big goals and break them down into smaller bits. If you want to save $5,000 in a year, for example, then that’s a savings rate of $417 a month.
Make a calendar alert to save that money on paydays or when you get windfalls. Write down your goals on paper and share them with the world, so you’re held accountable. Then revisit your monthly goals after two weeks to see where you stand and make action steps for the rest of the month. This method works! It did for me in January and February, so I’ll revert to it.
5. I isolated myself.
There’s power in being in a group. I joined the #debtfreecommunity on Instagram and Clever Girl Finance’s members-only accountability group in January. We reveled in each other’s successes and encouraged each other when we faced setbacks.
In March, I completely backed away. Silly move. I ran away from the main people I could’ve turned to for help.
How to avoid this mistake: Find, at least, one accountability partner or “money buddy” to talk about the ups and downs of the financial journey. Keeping things bottled up can make the situation worse. Your buddy could offer encouragement, consolation, advice and a nice kick in the pants.
I hope this helps. Please learn from my mistakes and make wise decisions with your wallet. It’ll be worth it.