It can be super frustrating when you’re making progress on your debt reduction and then Bam! something comes up. Of course it’s even more frustrating if you’re not able to send as much to debt as you’d like because things keep coming up, or if you’re falling behind.
Don’t you wish there was a way to prevent all that?
While we can’t prevent the unexpected, we can plan for it. And believe it or not, that type of planning makes a huge difference.
Here’s how to turn the frustration of something that came up into just a minor inconvenience.
Life isn’t set in stone
Start by acknowledging that life isn’t that in stone. Stuff is going to come up. The sooner we acknowledge that fact, the sooner we can prepare for the unexpected. This is critical.
The flip side is that the longer we deny that things are going to happen that we didn’t expect, the longer we can blame our lack of progress on someone else instead of believing that the way we choose to handle those things is within our control.
Denial leads to suffering. Preparation leads to progress.
Go ahead and prepare.
Open your eyes to the choices
Good and bad stuff happens to all of us. Our response is what matters.
It feels a lot better to realize that we are in control of how we choose to react to things. We can take preparing for the future into our own hands.
For example, I used to get frustrated monthly when I’d blow the budget due to something unexpected. But instead of changing my budget to plan for the unexpected, I just kept chalking things up to it being “an unusual month”. I wasn’t prepared, so things didn’t improve. (They often got worse.)
Once I woke up to the fact that every month was going to be an unusual month, things changed.
It’s easier to clearly define a response before something bad happens, than to try to deal with it in the moment when you may not be thinking as clearly. And if nothing comes up? Great! You’re in even better shape than expected.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Bad stuff that “comes up” usually falls into one of several broad categories:
Health – getting sick, accidents, becoming disabled, needing expensive medications, aging, etc.
Income – getting laid off, having your wages garnished, not being able to work for health reasons, deciding to be a stay-at-home parent, etc.
Natural or man-made disaster – fires, floods, hurricanes, people doing horrible things, etc.
Mechanical – car repairs, computer failure, AC or appliances going out on your house, etc.
Budgeting fails – overspending, not planning for things on the list above, forgetting about things like birthday gifts and holidays, etc.
Take a look at the things that have happened or could happen in your life and see which of those categories they fall within.
Now that you have the broad categories down and have looked at how they could impact your life in the future, it’s time to take action. Decide what you could do should those situations occur — and what you might be able to do to prevent them from happening in the first place.
Here are some suggestions for each category:
Health – eat well, get enough sleep, stay active, get good health and disability insurance, and build up a hefty emergency fund.
Income – put in more than the minimum effort at work and make sure the higher-ups know it, keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, interact regularly with others in the industry and pass along helpful tips to them, develop side hustles that you can use to bring in extra income, always spend less than you earn, and build up a hefty emergency fund.
Natural or man-made disaster – get good insurance (making sure you understand what it does and does not cover) and make an emergency preparedness plan.
Mechanical – basically just know that everything mechanical fails at some point, so set aside money each month in separate fund for those eventualities.
Budgeting fails – treat your budget like a living document. When you forget about something, add it in to the budget from here on out. (Here’s a great budget template you can use.) Don’t delude yourself into thinking it won’t happen again. Build in a little extra padding each month too for discretionary spending (in addition to fun money). If you’re reading this and thinking “what extra money?”, work on reducing expenses and bringing in more money.
If all that sounds like a lot, remember that every step forward is a step in the right direction. And the more you plan, the better prepared you’ll be to handle what life throws at you. Finally, remember that good things can happen too. Things can also go better than we had planned.