At one point or another we all do it: commit to breaking our bad habits. Every January people resolve to dropping a vice, losing weight, spending less, and so on. We always start out strong and progress inspires us to keep moving along. Three months goes by and the fire that keeps us going starts to dwindle. Unfortunately behavior changes are typically short-lived.
Let’s say you commit to paying down your credit card by the end of the year. You start strong with steady payments for the first few months and soon you start to notice the dent you’re making. Everything is going great, until the day you see marketing for the release of a fancy new gadget you’ve had your sights on. Silently telling yourself you will pay it off next month, you charge it to your credit card. Next month shows it’s weary head and you realize you have forgotten to make a payment and now you’re facing a heavy late fee.
Oops! What to do?
First, it’s best to see the overall picture. A behavioral change is a process, not an event. It happens in a series of stages. Change begins with merely thinking about wanting to do so, action steps follow to make it a reality, and maintenance will help maintain the ultimate goal.
Slip-ups happen and can happen at any point during a behavioral change. It’s important to tell yourself that this is normal and a part of the overall process. Don’t think of it as a failure, think of it as a misstep and focus on getting back on track.
Take action on a slip-up and work to minimize the damage. For instance, if you are dealing with a late fee, but have never been late you may be able to convince the creditor to waive it this once.
Did you really need that fancy new gadget? Yes, it’s exciting to be current, but you most likely could have created a savings for it. Try to not give in to impulse buying.
Always remember that that change is a process and missteps are normal, but correctable. Do not sabotage your long-term plan to pay off your credit. Turn a misstep into a learning experience, which in the end will help you reach those financial goals.