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Stop Beating Yourself Up, It's Time To Move On

By DealPro(view all posts by DonnaFreedman)
at 12:45PM Wednesday March 14, 2012
under Personal Finance

So you've finally taken charge of your spending. Good for you! Next step: Don't self-sabotage by thinking, "If only I'd done this sooner." Plenty of people think that. They can't believe they used to spend $300 a month just on lunches out, let alone multiple thousands per year on clothes, happy hours, or concert tickets.

They wish they'd been more careful.They wish they'd deferred gratification. They wish they'd held on to even a fraction of the funds they frittered. News flash: You will never see that money again. You can't change the past.However, you can change the present – and in doing so change the future. You can change the way you handle money now. It doesn't matter when you start.It matters that you start.
Moving In A Different Direction

Well, to some extent it matters. Someone who contributes to a retirement plan beginning in her 20s will be better off than someone who's just getting around to it in her 40s. But that someone in her 40s has to start somewhere. Sitting around saying, "I wish...." won't get her very far. "If only…" or "How could I have…" mindsets are self-defeating. They distract you from an important truth: You are now taking charge of your finances. Try this mantra instead: I am moving in the right direction by making smart and conscious choices about money.

If you must think about past money blunders, use them as something against which to weigh your current behavior – and your ongoing progress. What you did before no longer matters, except as an object lesson.

Don't reprove -- IMprove 

Incidentally, that object lesson sounds like this: What can I learn from that? It does not sound like this: How could I have been so dumb? Suppose the old you went shopping with her friends every weekend. The new you has a budget for clothing, a habit of looking for coupon codes at Savings.com, and a list of mall-free ways to socialize. Instead of looking back in anger (Look at all the money I spent!) remind yourself how much smarter you're being about your finances now.

Incidentally: Cutting expenses is a good idea, but don't live in self-imposed penury. Some people slash spending to the bone, either as punishment for perceived past sins or as an attempt to build their savings faster. A little sacrifice is OK. Too much sacrifice and you might get discouraged and quit. Live as fully and joyously as you can within that "right direction/conscious decisions" framework. Read other posts on the Savings.com blog, both to learn new strategies and also to share ones you've discovered on your own. Even if your progress is slow at first, you're still moving forward. That's much better than wishing you weren't stuck.