Making Long Term, Lasting Change

We all go through hard times. The peaks of our emotional, financial, physical, and spiritual health, by their very definition, cannot last forever. Making long-term, lasting financial change is hard, it’s a life-long process, and it means learning to navigate and recover from the financially rough times we go through.

Getting out of a money slump isn’t quite the same as hitting rock bottom or deciding to turn your money game around completely. A money slump is a hiccup, it’s a valley. Like any challenging experience, it can feel hopeless and frustrating, and it may come from something we need to take responsibility for or something that’s completely out of our control.

It doesn’t really matter who is at fault for them, but it does matter how we navigate them. Financial health is a life-long commitment, and the more we can practice getting through the slumps, the stronger our financial game becomes. As is true in almost every arena in our lives, how we show up on our worst day matters at least as much as how we show up on our best. 

If you’re feeling like you’re in a money slump and ready to make the turn around to get out, here’s what I’d recommend.

1) Detach your financial health from your-self worth

Money isn’t you, it’s a tool you use. Whether you had to put that unexpected expense on a credit card, drained your savings account to pay for it, or were able to comfortably pay for it with lots left to spare means nothing about the quality of your character, your worth, or how you show up in this world. Do the hard work of detaching your financial net worth from your actual worth in this world. No amount of dollars makes you more or less worthy. (I recommend practicing this not just when you’re feeling bad about money, but also when you’re feeling good about it.)

Don’t let your feelings about money degrade your self-worth either. It’s okay to feel sad, even crushed by a major expense. It’s okay to feel remorseful about a spending decision. A lot of times if you don’t let yourself feel those feelings in their entirety, they may linger and keep you in your slump longer than you want. You’ve worked hard for the money you have, and it’s okay to feel things about it, even if it is just money.

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2) Focus on what you can control

Sometimes you can control a lot in a money slump, sometimes you can control very little.

Maybe you can pick up a side job, maybe you can shop around for interest-free financing to give yourself a few months to pay an unexpected expense off, maybe you can return some of those online purchases that drove up your credit card bill, and maybe you can’t do much right now to improve the situation that sent you into this slump in the first place. If you can make changes now, make them. If there are no changes you can make in the moment to make this situation better, it’s probably best to stop spending a lot of energy worrying about what you cannot control. Deal with the immediate need in the best way you can with the resources you have at your disposal, and proceed to step 3. 

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3) Let it go

It’s easy to let one tough money situation or bad money decision lead directly into another because you feel like giving up, to continue to dwell on our bad luck or bad choices as we pay off an expense, and to let a single frustrating money event turn into a longer money slump if we start to convince ourselves that all the changes we’ve been working on for our financial health are pointless. Resist the urge.

If your long-term financial plan and habits are still what you want them to be, it’s time to let this hiccup go. You’ve dealt with what you can control, and by holding too tightly to this event or experience, you risk setting yourself up for a longer money slump.

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4) Get back on track (slowly)

If your long-term financial plan and habits are still a work in progress (and most of ours are), the middle of a money slump isn’t the time for a complete overhaul. While it can be tempting to snap ourselves out of a money slump with a grandiose plan that will prevent this from ever happening again, the pressure related to unrealistic expectations like suddenly saving way more or spending way less is a set up for failure. The plan may create temporary relief, but will likely lead to prolonging the feeling of a money slump. The surest way out is one small step at a time, so save the major money overhaul for after you’ve taken the small steps you need to take to feel better about your situation right now.

Have any questions? Get in touch today!