Lessons to be learned from budget fails

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Making it big wasn’t easy for the rapper Pitbull. His philosophy: “There's no losing, only learning. No failures, only opportunities. No problems, only solutions.”

It’s just as true whether your goal is to become a Grammy-winning star or merely to make ends meet every month.

Sticking to a budget isn’t easy, either, and we all miss the target once in a while. If you’re reeling from a recent budget fail, there’s no need to get discouraged—you’ll do better next month.

Why am I so sure of that? Because within every budget fail lies a valuable lesson that can make you more financially savvy the next time around. The trick to successfully recouping from a budgeting disaster is to glean as much wisdom from it as you can. Here are five things you can do right now to learn from your money mistakes:

1. Adjust your budget.

There are lots of reasons people go over budget. Maybe your plan was too ambitious. Maybe you got blindsided by an unexpected expense. Maybe you suffered a drop in income. In any case, the best way to avoid a repeat is to figure out why it happened and adjust your budget accordingly.

They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. A few tweaks to your spending plan may be all you need to get back on track for next month. We’ve got a simple worksheet to help you rework your budget.

2. Re-evaluate your goals.

Budget fails often stem from trying too hard to reach a goal that isn’t realistic. This could be a hint that you might need to reconsider what’s within reach for you right now. Research has shown that setting overly ambitious goals is a surefire way to not accomplish what you set out to.

That doesn’t mean you can’t revisit your pie-in-the-sky dreams in the future. But now is a good time to take an honest look at your finances and figure out what you can realistically achieve.

3. Try out a new budgeting tool.

As humans, we’re actually hardwired to live in the now and put off the future until later. That’s why we’ve developed so many tools and life hacks to help us subvert our natural tendency to overspend.

You might be surprised by how helpful technology can be. Nearly seven in 10 smartphone owners who use their device to manage money say budgeting tools have helped change their spending habits. Find out how to choose the right budgeting tool for you.

4. Get some overdraft protection.

One of the worst things about blowing your budget is accumulating overdraft fees because you overdrew your checking account. When you’re already strapped for cash, these can feel like the last straw.

The good news is that they’re easy to avoid. With the right overdraft protection, you can weather tight months without racking up a bunch of fees. Take a look at some of the different overdraft protection options OCCU offers.

5. Develop a new habit.

Sometimes our own spending habits undermine our best efforts to stick to a budget. Consider your own financial habits and see if there are any areas where you might be repeatedly sabotaging yourself.

Maybe you need to do more cooking at home rather than dining out. Or maybe it’s a simple matter of checking your account periodically to make sure you’re still on track. Discover a few simple habits you can develop to support your budgeting efforts.  

When you grow from your budget fails, they’re not failures at all. They’re learning experiences that can help guide you toward the financial future you want.