Now that the first quarter of 2016 is behind us, we have some solid financial experience to compare to our annual plans. Chances are, if you’re human, you’ve already seen a few money slip-ups.
Maybe you were charged an early termination fee for cancelling the gym membership you never used (secret’s safe with me!). Maybe you were surprised by an invitation to a wedding way out of town (even though those engagement photos have been on Facebook for the past year). Maybe you were taking crazy pills when you thought you could keep your grocery budget to $200 each month (guilty as charged!).
When these things come up, it’s easy to find ourselves discouraged from working towards all the financial goals we set in the new year. That “I’ll never get this right!” attitude can be overbearing and disheartening.
There are some expenses that arise that just make us feel stupid, like we shouldn’t be trusted with money, that we are bad at making decisions, and that we’ll never ever get out from the burden of money mistakes we make.
Such is life! And you’re going to notice it happening a lot more once you start mapping out your money, setting a budget, and tracking your spending. So yeah, this is perfectly normal.
And I promise you this: It will get better. How do I know this?
If you’re paying attention to your money mistakes, you will learn from them, and that knowledge is a pretty good investment.
My business-pal-turned-wonderful-life-pal, Jamie Jensen, wrote a piece on her copywriting business’s blog about great money advice she received from her father. She writes:
Whenever there was money spent that didn’t turn out how it was intended, my father called it “tuition for life.” Got a parking ticket? Tuition for life. Bought something you regret? Tuition for life. Let someone sell you into something you didn’t really want? Tuition. For. Life.
I’ve been using this “life tuition” analogy a lot this year. That whole “you need to spend money to make money” saying? In my experience it’s “you need to spend money to learn how to spend money wisely.”
So how do you get out from under the burden of this life tuition?
First, maybe it’s time to start budgeting for it. If we budget for it, we won’t feel so bad about it and won’t get discouraged from sticking to our big picture financial plans.
I feel like I’ve been paying $100/month of life tuition for as long as I can remember. So if it’s that frequent, it’s probably wise to cushion my budget with a $100/month Oopsie Daisy Tuition For Life category to throw towards my money blunders. Let’s be real: we’re not perfect so let’s manage our expectations with our spending, shall we?
Second, reflect on what you’ve learned. My girlfriend was painting her bedroom for the first time and totally miscalculated how much paint she needed and how marked up quart sized paints are compared to gallons. There were some other slip-ups but the point is she invested more money into the project than was necessary.
Isn’t that the worst? Spending money you didn’t need to spend or didn’t feel good spending! But now she has this expertise in painting budgets for when those sea breeze walls get a little too minty. There is a lesson to be gained from every expense as long as you’re paying attention.
Third, celebrate your wins! You might not have budgeted for the deductible on your car insurance but if you came in $20 under on your food budget, bravo! Perfection is impossible, people! You’re doing better than you give yourself credit for. Sometimes the bad stuff seems to snowball once you start noticing it. What if you made the good stuff snowball as well? Don’t they give kids trophies now just for showing up? Do that!
Fourth, share the wealth (of knowledge!). You’re not going to know the true cost of something until you have to pay for it. Or, better yet, until someone else has to pay for it! Ideally, we can all share our experiences with each other and budget accordingly. Chat with your friends and family about money lessons they’ve learned or expenses they didn’t see coming.
I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Rita Mae Brown:
“Good judgement comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgement.”
So keep doing what you’re doing as mindfully as you can do it! It will get better.