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Financial flub? How to move on

Missed a payment? Got dinged with an overdraft fee? It happens. Get over it.

By Donna_Freedman Apr 12, 2012 2:08PM
Image: A man holding a check book (© Image Source/Getty Images)Personal-finance blogger J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly was surprised by a $75 late-rent fee. He knew he'd written the check and could have sworn he'd taken it along when he dropped in at the building manager's office.

Besides, he couldn't find the check anywhere. So he must have paid the rent, right?

Except he hadn't: It was still in his check register. Oops.

This sort of thing would once have made him very angry. These days he looks at financial mishaps "more objectively." (Post continues after video.)

In a post called "The philosophy of failure," Roth explained his new approach:

  • Figure out what went wrong.
  • Come up with a plan to keep it from happening again.
  • Consider each error to be temporary and isolated.
  • Stop beating yourself up for a simple flub.

Couldn't have said it better myself, although I'll give it a try:

Make a financial mistake? Learn from it, then let it go.

An object lesson

This applies both to financial fails from the past week and your past life.

Suppose you forgot to take your coupons to the supermarket Saturday. Frugal goof, not the end of the world -- just figure out a way to remember them every time you shop. Keep them in the glove compartment? Store them with your reusable shopping bags? Make your shopping list on the back of an old envelope and put the coupons in the envelope?

Coming to terms with mistakes of the less recent past is a bit trickier. As you change the way you look at money, you might feel lousy about previous spending habits. Remember when you'd spend $500 a month on dining out or thousands and thousands per year because of a shopping addiction?

Remembering previous habits is OK. Obsessing over them? Counterproductive.

Those days are done. The money is gone. You can't get a do-over. What you can do, and might already have done, is learn from those behaviors.

Don't mourn -- organize

For example, you might get overwhelmed and forget bill-payment dates. Automate your finances, and there will be no more late charges.

Or perhaps you're plagued by bounced-check fees. Opt out of overdraft protection, which will require you to keep better track of your funds and/or learn to live without instant access.

That's turning a negative (previous financial foul-ups) into a positive (learning from your mistakes). Obsessing over past goofs can mess with your frugal focus.

Look at it this way: "I used to overspend. Now I'm finding ways to live a good life while living within my means."

Acknowledge what you're doing right. Recognize the progress you're making. Oh, and drop off or mail the rent check as soon as you write it.

More on MSN Money:

Apr 12, 2012 4:32PM

Great advice!  Keep mistakes in perspective and work on doing better.  What more should one expect? 

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Donna Freedman's Frugal Nation blog is for readers who want to live cheaply -- whether due to necessity or a lifestyle choice. It explores living sustainably and making life more meaningful at the same time.


Donna Freedman

Donna Freedman, a writer based in Anchorage, Alaska, writes the Frugal Nation blog for MSN Money. She won regional and national prizes during an 18-year newspaper career and earned a college degree in midlife without taking out student loans. Donna also writes about the frugal life for her own site, Surviving and Thriving.