Saturday, May 26, 2012

Saving the Moola: how to handle setbacks

You have some money in the bank. You're using a budget. You're paying down debt. You're saving for the things you both want and need. You're living responsibly.

Then... you get into a car accident and need to pay a deductible. Your health insurance premium rises. You take a pay cut at work - or worse, you lose your job. Your rent payment increases.

Life happens.

You feel like you just got somewhere, and disaster came calling. You take one step forward, two steps back.

Jason and I felt like this a lot in 2010 and 2011. We were paying cash for a wedding and succeeded in doing so, but so many disasters happened along way. Then, the wedding was over, and we had so many things go wrong all at once: I needed new glasses and insurance definitely wasn't going to cover it all, our now-primary car had so many issues and needed serious repairs, we needed to move and we were unsure where we were going to live but we knew we needed a moving fund, etc. etc. etc.

Thankfully, we paid cash for everything that came our way while paying down a lot of debt we had then (now, we're paying off student loans).

And this year, thankfully, so far, we've had minimal disasters come our way. But we do feel we've had to climb little mole hills - our rent payment increased starting on March 1, and our health insurance premium rose as of May 1. We possibly could have budgeted for these increases and definitely will keep this in mind when nailing down a budget for next year, but we didn't think to add in these increases this year. So now we're dealing with more out-go than we had planned which will decrease how much debt we can pay off.

Even more devastating than the financial toll is the emotional toll. How do we keep our momentum going when we feel like we're climbing up the mountain and we have a bear on our back tugging us back down?

Here's some tips if you find yourself feeling beaten at life:
  1. Make a list of the setbacks you experienced before and note how you overcame them. Most importantly, realize you overcame them, period. If you did it then, you can do it again. Attitude is key.
  2. Take a day to slough off stress and get in touch with what really matters to you. For us, that's each other (our family!). We took an entire weekend and just spent quality time together. We played board games we owned, we cooked from scratch, we didn't use the car, we didn't spend any money. It was bliss.
  3. Pray. Prayer isn't going to change God, but it will change you. Praying helps us to focus on what God desires of us. Praying helps us realize the blessings we've already been given. Praying helps us remember the promises He made. Praying helps us remember God has a plan.
Once your emotions are in check, then you can handle how to overcome whatever financial setback you experienced. We sat down together and made a list of ideas of how we could recoup the extra money that would be flowing out. We made a pact to use the car far less and we started buying produce at a grocery store with cheaper produce prices, as a couple of examples.

Make a list of ideas you could try. You might not decide to stick with all of them, and you may find a few key ideas that not only help you save a little bit but that you really enjoy. And if you're already incredibly frugal and you think you couldn't possibly think of any other way to save money, you're wrong. Think outside of the box. Could you line dry all of your clothes? Could you hand wash your clothes? Would it be cheaper to hand wash your dishes rather than run the dish washer? Could you bike some places instead of use the car? Could you sell some items you have in your home that you no longer want or need?

Most importantly, what could you sacrifice today to achieve your goal tomorrow?

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