Life happens no matter how much we plan, and it can wreak havoc on our finances. Even if you had the best laid financial plans, life can get in the way, and you may find yourself wondering how to get back on track. Is everything lost if you've fallen off track, stopped saving money, or have had to use every dollar earned to pay bills?
Fortunately, we can tell you the answer is ‘no, it’s not all lost.’ There are plenty of ways to get back on track even when you feel lost. Everyone experiences the feeling at one time or another. The important thing to remember is your financial hardship is temporary, and with a few adjustments, you can get back on track.
10 tips for how to get back on track financially
So, are you ready to take charge of your finances? Here are 10 tips on how to get back on track when you feel lost!
1. Reflect on your mistakes
Have you ever heard that mistakes are opportunities to learn? It’s true. You can look at a mistake as a complete and utter failure, or you can look at it as a learning experience. Look at it and decide what you could have done better. What could you change?
Use your mistakes as stepping stones to improve your life (and your finances), and don't let them hold you back. While it won’t help you get back on track immediately, it will help you grow as a person and make wiser choices moving forward if and when life kicks you again.
2. Create a habit tracker
If you’re the type that starts a habit and then falls off the wagon after a few days or weeks, use a habit tracker to make it easier to stick to. You can even set up rewards for specific milestones. For example, if you stick to your budget for two weeks in a row, reward yourself (with a small reward, nothing that will break the bank).
If you notice on your habit tracker that you can’t stick to your budget or you quit your ‘good’ habits after a few tries, figure out why. Is there something specific going on in your life that makes it impossible to stick to your desired habits?
Take an honest look at your life and figure out what’s causing the roadblock and see what you can do to work around it.
3. Review your budget to get on track
Sometimes the budget that seems right is all wrong. If you can’t stay on track with your finances, it could be because you set up the wrong budget. Even if you followed a template or did what your successful BFF did, it doesn’t mean it will work for you.
Take an honest look at your spending. Pull your bank and credit card statements, determine where you’re going over budget, and understand why. Did you make your budget too restrictive? Do you need to rearrange how much you have budgeted for certain categories?
You may find you have to cut back on certain costs. List your costs by priority and decide how you’ll cut back. It could be small things, like cutting back on your grocery spending or eating out less. Finding the right budget method is how to get back on track when you feel lost about your finances!
4. Stick to your schedule
Everyone needs a schedule to stick to their good habits. Your schedule helps you make good choices rather than trying to make fly-by-night decisions. Set up a schedule to pay your bills, revisit your budget, and contribute to your savings or investment accounts.
The more you have scheduled, the more likely you are to get on track. It’s harder to say ‘I’m not going to put money in savings today’ when it’s staring at you from your calendar. The guilt will get to you, and you’ll find that you want to stick to your good financial habits because they’re scheduled.
5. Find an accountability partner
Getting an accountability partner is how to get back on track when you feel lost. If you’re married, can you hold one another accountable? If you are both spenders or you’re both guilty of falling off track, find a neutral third party to be your accountability partner.
You need someone who will ask you the questions you need to hear and wait until you provide honest answers. You’re more likely to stay on track with your finances if you have to answer to someone. For example, you are shopping and see a gorgeous purse you must have.
You know it’s not in your budget, but it’s calling your name. If you have an accountability partner, you know you’ll have to answer to them. You’ll likely give the purchase much greater thought and hopefully won't do it.
6. Focus on what you can control
Life is unpredictable, as you know. We think we are in control of it all, but we aren’t - not even close. Instead of looking at what you can’t control, focus on what you CAN control.
You can control how much money you put in your savings account each month. You can control how much you contribute to your retirement account each paycheck. What you can’t control are things like pandemics, losing your job (sometimes), or falling ill.
When you focus on the things you can control, it’s a lot easier to get on track with your finances. Life doesn’t seem as overwhelming when you focus on what you can control and worry less about what you can’t.
7. Always keep learning
You are never too old to learn. As far as personal finances are concerned, the landscape keeps changing. While it used to be ‘smart’ to use your credit cards for every purchase, it’s no longer the right thing to do. FICO calculations change, what lenders look for change, and even how you can invest your money changes all the time.
Always learn, see what’s new and how you can improve your personal financial situation. Take cryptocurrency, for example. This wasn’t around or at least popular a few years ago, yet now it’s the latest craze and is how millions of people are growing their portfolios at breakneck speeds.
8. Realize every little bit counts
You don’t have to make big changes to get on track. Small changes often add up to much more, especially when you have a lot of them. The next time you think, "I’ll only save $1 with this coupon" or "I can only put away $10 in my savings account," think again.
Every dollar or even every penny counts. It all adds up and, with consistent effort, can make a big change in your personal finances. Little habits lead to big changes, and that’s how to get back on track.
9. Create a realistic plan
No matter how bad you want to get on track, don’t be unrealistic. You can create a plan that sounds amazing on paper, but if you can’t make it a reality, what good does it do? The only thing an unrealistic plan will do is make you feel worse.
You’ll feel like you can’t do anything right and can’t get your finances in order. Instead, create a plan that’s realistic for today, no matter how meek it may look to you at the moment. Realize the potential in a realistic plan and know that your plan can change as you grow.
10. Prioritize your values
Take a long hard look at your values. What’s important to you? If you want to get back on track with your finances, make that a priority over shopping, going out, or spending needless money.
Write down your goals or make a vision board. Let your visions be in your face all the time, so you have no choice but to make them a reality. Prioritizing your values is how to get back on track when you feel lost.
One step at a time is how to get back on track with your finances!
It’s not as hard as it sounds to get back on track with your finances. It takes some soul searching, planning, and a lot of consistency. Only do what you are comfortable with and can master right now. Then take bigger steps as you make progress.
It’s nothing you will change overnight, especially if you were knocked to your knees after the pandemic, a divorce, or any other significant occurrence in your life. Give yourself some grace, form good habits, and before you know it, you will get on track again with your finances.
If you need additional help then sign up for our free financial courses and worksheets to start saving money and building wealth!