I may be extremely frugal. My husband and I may be pretty disciplined. We may be used to living on a very tight budget.
And the simple fact that we pulled ourselves out of incredible debt and a scary financial situation might even give us an A+ in lessons learned in the school of the Hard Knocks.
I still over-spend sometimes.
Gasp! Crash! Glass breaks! Tires screech!
It's true! How is it that I still mess up even though I have plenty of tools (and lessons learned) to keep me on the straight and narrow? Simple.
I'm human.
We all overspend at some point or another. I don't know ANYONE who can be absolutely perfect with their spending, 100% of the time, 365 days a year, for their entire lives.
I'm sorry, but I just don't think it's possible!
Life happens. Stuff happens. Impulses happen. Poor judgement happens. Fun times MUST happen. Whatever it is, once in a while spending too much
just. plain. happens.
The real secret to financial success is not as much about avoiding overspending as it is to learn how to recover successfully once you do so.
To clarify, don't misunderstand me here…
Of course I'm not encouraging you to overspend and certainly not encouraging you to justify doing so. I simply want to give you the tools to help you recover when the inevitable (overspending, that is)…happens.
So…what do you when you overspend?
Think of it this way…

Over time I've come to think about budgeting and finances like a diet. Here's what I mean:
Let's say you're trying to lose weight. Whether it's 5, 10, or 100lbs, it's the same – you watch what you eat, count calories, and make a conscious effort to eat less.
But let's say your friends throw you a birthday party and make you a gorgeous birthday cake. When the serve the cake, what do you do? 
Do you go without?
Sure, that would help you stick to your diet.
But what if you really, really, reeeeeeally want it? Or what if you should eat it to not offend your friends? What then? Is your diet completely ruined forever?
You simply find a way to make up for it.
Maybe you run a little longer the next day. Maybe you skip dessert the next night. Eat a salad for dinner. When you eat more calories than you should, you simply balance out your calories throughout the week to make up for it.
For the average person, it's not realistic to think that you won't eat dessert for the rest of your life. Sure, it can be done. But really, is that practical? And most importantly…is that the kind of life you want?
I say…eat the dang cake!
Don't eat it every day, and certainly don't eat the whole cake…but for heaven's sake, live a little! You just have to accept the fact that if you “eat the cake”, you must sacrifice something somewhere else. You can't have your cake and eat it too, after all! 🙂
Once you wrap your mind around this Diet Principle, it makes budgeting SO MUCH easier! It's constantly about changing numbers around to make it all equal out at the end of the month.
The people I know who are healthiest, fittest, strongest, and most importantly happiest, are the ones that have learned to live with balance in their lives. If they want cake, they eat cake. BUT…they know the consequences of eating the cake and do so wisely and sparingly. And then, when they do eat the cake, they make up for it somewhere else. It's all about give and take.
Now, keep in mind, I'm not ACTUALLY talking about weight loss here.
But in your mind if you replace the word “diet” for budget and “calories” for dollars, then it works just the same for finances.
Whoa, lightbulb!
If your finances are in poor shape then you might need to completely “skip the cake”, just like those who are trying to lose lots of weight quickly and effectively. But once that “hard-core diet” time is over, you have to learn how to live with food. The trick is to make good choices 95% of the time, and to learn to effectively make up for the other 5% the rest of the time.
So, you ate the cake overspent. How do you fix it?
  • Spending freeze. I use this a lot. Let's say we have a “bad week” and I go over-budget (many times it's on groceries).  I will FREEZE my spending that next week; make a conscious effort to avoid spending any money for a few days…half the week…or even the entire week to make up for it.
    • This is NOT impossible! (It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.) You may have to say NO to tough things (a great sale…lunch with the girls…morning coffee at the drive through…) but you chose to “eat the cake”, so you chose to pay the price somewhere else!
    • If you go WAY over-budget, you might need to have a serious freeze, for two weeks or longer…however long it takes to make up for the over-spending. Other than absolute necessities, NO spending, no matter what!
    • For meals, I simply dig through my pantry and freezer and only cook with things I have on-hand…no grocery trips allowed! (Meal planning tools HERE)
  • Check your mindset. You need to step back and assess whether you're truly motivated to succeed or not. You can't think, “Oh, it's ok for me to buy this even though I'm over-budget, because I'll just figure it out later…it'll work itself out.”…that defeats the purpose of a budget! If you're going to do it, do it right. Don't set yourself up to fail! The Diet Principle is to help you be realistic about your diet…not to help you cheat on it.  “Overeating” may feel good for a time…but are the lasting effects worth it?
  • Re-assess your budget. Let's be real, here. If you are constantly, consistently going over budget (and you're really, actually, truly trying not to), then your budget might just need to be upped. Be reasonable, but be realistic. Watch your budget for 3 months before making any changes so you give it a fair shot (explained HERE). BUT – if you up your budget on something, that means you will have LESS budget for something else. Give and take, people!
  • Avoid over-spending next time. As you know, I am a big believer in credit cards (as explained HERE). I love them for the security, benefits, and the digital tracking. BUT, over-spending with cards can be waaaaaay too easy. One of the best tools I can think of are Visa Prepaid cards. They give you all the perks of a card (safety, tracking, etc.) but you can automatically load money on the cards and when it's gone, it's gone! GENIUS!
You can even set up direct deposit, which is SO AMAZING. This video explains it well:
See more videos about it HERE
I am a big believer in prepaid cards. They give you the preciseness of cash, but the benefits of a card. Don't set yourself up to fail…use the tools out there to help you succeed!
So there you go! I hope you see that being financially secure is all about learning to stay balanced. Now, get out there and eat some cake! The literal kind 🙂

Piggy bank photo source HERE

I am blogging on behalf of Visa Prepaid and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Discover more at http://www.VisaPrepaid.com or view more Visa Prepaid videos at http://www.youtube.com/visaprepaid.