What to Do When you Fall Off the Wagon

Hi there income streamers!

If you haven’t noticed, my blogging pace has faltered a little bit in the past week. I regret to inform you its because I suffered some burnout recently. I realised that I was focusing so much on saving and budgeting that I wasn’t letting myself enjoy even cheap nights out, and I was overthinking my whole financial strategy. Shouldn’t it be simple? Earn more than you spend, throw the difference in index funds?

And yet, there I was, plugging away at spreadsheets as if that’d somehow accelerate my journey to FI. I had made the classic mistake of thinking that worrying = work. The truth is, whether I like it or not, I am entering the “autopilot” stage of my journey to FI for the most part. If I can find ways to reduce spending further, get creative with tax-deferred investing, or earn more, that’s great, but I already have a long term investing and saving strategy nailed down so tweaking it won’t help.

So what did I do to handle this built-up stress? Unfortunately, I spent pretty recklessly for two days. I treated myself to pastries, new books, and expensive dinners out. And you know what happened?

Not that much, really.

In this particular scenario, I exceeded my weekly “fun” budget by about $40. That just means that if I want to get back on track I have to trim four dollars a week for ten weeks. And that’s definitely doable. More importantly, what I learned from this experience is that stressing about small financial details and trying to 100% optimise my saving and investing is only detrimental to my success by making me actually resent my finances rather than being excited by the opportunities I’m opening up for myself.

The question remains, however, on how I should handle stress buildups like this in the future. I could give myself a quarterly thought-free spending weekend and just make up for the extra spending in the following weeks, but I don’t think relying on money to destress is a good idea. I think in the future I will instead allot myself a walk outside before and after every budget review I make. That will let me compartmentalise my financial planning and thinking to that time of the week, and the thinking time in the woods will let me transition back to a normal, fun-loving mindset rather than my intense financial one.

As far as how to financially handle a little relapse into consumerism, I think the best approach is to use it as a motivator to either earn more or spend less to make up for what you spent. Finding a place to shave off four dollars a week will require a little creativity but it should be manageable. On the other hand, earning an extra four dollars a week wouldn’t be too hard online and it’d give me some great motivation to continue the weekly earner series. I’ll probably try doing both for the sake of a good experiment and report back on which method was more effective.

The most important thing I can tell you to help pick yourself back up, though, is that your finances do not define you. Spending some money is not the end of the world, and you can easily get back on track. Falling off the wagon is not a sin but rather a sign that you might need to reevaluate your life priorities and possibly adjust how much focus you apply to saving for the future over enjoying the present.

Have any of you fallen off the wagon? Do you have any strategies to avoid burnout? Would any of you like to publicly chastise me for being a bad financial role model this week? Let me know in the comments!

For more heart-to-heart financial advice check out @StevesStreams on Twitter!

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