What do you do when you’re broke, stressed to the max about money, and want to give up on your budget?
It might be tempting to throw in the towel, say, “To heck with it!”, and go on a spending spree. Or maybe you just have a good old-fashioned breakdown!
Yeah, we’ve all been there. And sometimes a good cry does help, but without a clear plan to actually fix things afterward, crying isn’t a long term strategy.
Luckily, spending like crazy and breaking down aren’t your only options. Instead, try this three-step process, and don’t give up on your budget.
Step 1: Take a break
Sometimes you just need a time out!
Maybe you’re feeling mad, sad, frustrated, or lonely. We get it – this budgeting stuff can be hard!
Whatever the reason, when you’re in that kind of mindset, you need a distraction. It doesn’t have to be long or elaborate, but you need to restore your sanity so you can keep on keepin’ on.
Get Your Mind Off Things
For some people, taking a break might mean watching a good show on Netflix. Or, if you’re breaking down in the middle of the store (let’s be real, it happens), you might just need to go back to your car and listen to some of your favorite music.
Regardless of what you do, find a way to get out of your current (negative) headspace. You need to stop worrying long enough for you to clear your mind.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to come back to the situation with a better outlook–sometimes you just need enough willpower to get through a weak moment!
Step 2: Talk to Yourself (5 Why method)
Okay, I know that talking to yourself doesn’t seem like great budgeting advice, but hear me out.
Before you can fix your budgeting problems, you need to find out what they are!
Maybe the reason you can’t stick to your budget is you’ve been losing sight of your goal, or maybe you’ve been putting yourself in tempting situations.
Whatever the problem, you need to have a talk with yourself so you can dig deeper, find out what’s causing the problem, and move forward.
That’s where the 5 Why Method comes in.
The 5 Why method is a root cause analysis technique. It’s often used in business scenarios and can be super useful in personal scenarios too.
It’s a great method to get to the real reason for your problem.
5 Why Method
So, how do you do it? Simple! Start by stating how you feel (AKA your perceived problem). Then, for every answer you give, ask yourself “why?” until you get to the root of the problem.
(This means you could ask more than 5 “whys” or less than 5 “whys.” Keep going until you feel you’re at the root of the issue – within reason, of course.)
Problem: I am stressed about money.
WHY are you stressed about money?
Answer: Because I keep spending even though I know I’m blowing my budget.
WHY do you do that?
Answer: Because I’m not willing to give up the things I like.
Answer: Because I want to wear nice clothes, go out with friends, have a nice house, have a nice car, etc.
WHY do you want those things?
Answer: Because I want to fit in and I want to spend time with my friends. I don’t want to be looked down on if I can’t do something or have something because of money.
WHY do you need the approval of others so badly?
Answer: Because, I struggle with self-doubt and when I get approval from others I feel like I matter.
Ok, before you think this example is too dramatic, let me say one thing. This exercise is about getting real.
It’s a conversation you’ll have with yourself (or a trusted friend, S.O., etc.) where you can be totally honest.
I think that a lot of the money and budget struggles we have are tied to emotional struggles we haven’t addressed. So, when you’re doing this exercise, don’t give superficial answers. Be honest. Brutally honest.
Step 3: Figure out Your Plan
Now that you know the root cause of your problem, you can work on fixing it. So, come up with a plan.
You know you best, so this is a really individual process. Do what works for you. But, to demonstrate, let’s go with the example we used above.
You’re stressed about money, and you realize the real problem is that your self-doubt. So, what are you going to do? Here are some possibilities:
- Complete a self-love challenge
- Choose a couple of times a week to focus on you (away from friends)
- Read a book on positive thinking
- Come up with a system to evaluate if you’re doing what you’re doing for approval from others or, if it’s because it’s something that aligns with your goals
- A combination of things listed
You also might try to consciously stop seeking approval from friends when it comes to spending money on entertainment. In that case, you could make goals to help you have a less expensive social life. For example:
- Research and attend 2 free events in your city each month
- Make a list of things you could do with friends that won’t break the bank
- Invite friends over monthly for a potluck instead of going out to eat
As long as your plan is specific, measurable, and works for you, it doesn’t matter what it is.
Whatever your plan, make sure to write down specific, measurable steps and share it with someone who will help support you and help you stay accountable.
Practice the Process
Even though we outlined these steps specifically for budgeting, they can be used to help solve any problem. So, start practicing. If you’re struggling with a relationship or breaking a bad habit, test out this process.
The more you use it, the better you’ll be at putting it into practice when you need it.