How to Get Back on Track with Your Money when You’ve lost Control

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Getting back on track with your money after an epic fail with spending.

You guys, I failed….royally failed. I talk all the time about cutting back on eating out, cooking dinner at home, and saving loads of cash. I’ve persuaded many of you to be more mindful of your eating out habits and how much better it is on your health and on your wallet.

drowning in debt

I’ve written numerous posts on how to shop for groceries, ways to cut spending, and the simple way to save quickly on your food budget.

But, these past two weeks, I failed miserably. There was not a day that went by where I didn’t stop at a drive-thru for at least ONE meal. It made me feel so much guilt and I needed to get back on track.

What Happened?

The truth is, I let apathy win. It took over and I stopped caring about my spending for those two weeks. But, I had a rude awakening when I checked my credit card balance and saw that over $300 was spent on take-out and fast food.

That amount could have covered our groceries for the entire month, and we would have had much better meals, leftover, more time at home, the list goes on.

If you’re new here and wondering why I use my credit card for my spending, here’s a brief explanation. Because I like to save money, I choose to use a credit card for my monthly spending, like gas and our “occasional” take-out meals. These expenses are accounted for in our budget, and the credit card bill is paid in full each month. This lets me get reward points and cash back on things I was going to buy anyway.

If you’re just starting out, this isn’t a strategy I would suggest though. Use cash until you curb your spending a reset your habits first before trying this out.

Our Current Diet

I should probably also mention that during that time, we were in a fast. Our fast, or lent as it’s better known in our religious tradition, is when we only consume vegan foods. That means we abstain from meat, dairy, or any animal by-products, for the most part (we aren’t legalistic about it).

Even though, we fast/lent every single year for Easter, each year, it seems to be more difficult to think of foods to eat, let alone cook for the entirety of the fasting period of 55 days. So, naturally I would justify the fast food choice by saying things like:

I was tired from a long day of work, or

The kids were too hungry to wait, or

There wasn’t anything to make (where there is a will, there’s a way, but I clearly had no will).

So, I continued buying fast food and the more I purchased, the easier it became to continue the downward cycle. I kept telling myself that tomorrow would be different, that we would get back on track, but each day ended the same way, fast food on the table.

The Result?

This went on for two weeks straight. We all felt sluggish, more tired, and just lazy. Not to mention the constant bloating and stomach discomfort.


We would get hungry faster between meals, and we were always grouchy, believe it or not. I blame this on the empty calories we were all eating. I unintentionally experimented on my family the causes of eating fast food everyday straight for 2 weeks, and the results were astonishing.

Not only were we wasting money left and right, but we were also packing on pounds, and we were constantly dissatisfied, wanting more and more food to keep us full. It’s an insatiable cycle that keeps us endlessly consuming until our belt buckles explode and our wallets deflate.

It sucked.

I had to do something about this and fast. It was time to put a plan in place to get back on track for real. So, this past Friday, I completely cleaned out my kitchen for spring and reorganized the entire room. I even put new shelf liner. It felt great to re-organize and reset my space.

I thought for sure that day 1 would be a piece of cake. I’d have enough motivation to knock it out of the park. But it didn’t. We had another full day of eating out, nothing changed.

Time for Change-Back on Track

Monday, I resolved to fix this. Really make a full effort to make a change and get back on track. I got up early, started planning out my week’s dinners, and this time, I didn’t ask for the family’s input on meals. Instead, I took inventory of what we had on hand and created meals that would use up what we had in the pantry.

We had spent so much money on take-out and I wanted a way to just cut the spending for a few days until we kicked the fast food habit.

Surprisingly, it worked like a charm. We ate at the dining room table for the first time in weeks and it felt so good to eat a home-cooked meal, I didn’t realize how much we all missed it. Knowing that I spent zero extra dollars to put food on the table felt amazing.

Slowly Getting Back on Track

family dinner

Tuesday, I went back to work. I diligently packed lunch for my husband and I, so we didn’t get sucked back in to buying lunch. I brought oatmeal for breakfast and spinach stew for lunch. It was delicious.

But there was still a slight temptation to buy something from the vending machine at work. It almost felt like I was going through spending withdrawals. So, I had to be even more mindful and diligent in order to get back on track with my spending and see my plan through.

It’s easy to succumb to the temptation of spending when your cravings kick in and you think, “what’s a buck gonna do”? Friend, it can do a lot…of damage. It’s a gateway to a habit that can get out of control if we aren’t intentional with how we spend our money. It’s not the dollar that’s the issue, it’s what it represents.

Not spending takes a lot of discipline, especially at the beginning. But the more you practice, the stronger you become. And that’s what happened. Day 1 was tough but day 2 was easier. And as the days went by, I got better at standing my ground and staying on track with my spending.

Here’s what I discovered after this experience. Personal finances and the decisions we make revolve around our life, our routines, our willingness to be a little uncomfortable to get back on track with our money.

You and I, we’re human. As the Saving Whiz, I love finding new ways to save money. But sometimes life gets in the way of my plans, and I spend more than I wanted to. And if you’re in this boat, I want you to know that it’s not the end of the world and there is a way to break the cycle and get back on track with your spending.

But before getting back on track, you gotta give yourself grace.

If you’re beating yourself up and letting the guilt consume you, you won’t get the clarity that you need to create a plan to fix it. No one is perfect, plans don’t go perfectly, and if we strive for perfection, it will keep us stuck. Instead, strive for progress. Strive for grit and consistency.

Those are the things that help my Super Savers community get back on track and push through during the times they feel stuck. And it’s made a world of a difference with their financial progress.

It’s really never too late to change your financial direction and every little step takes you closer to your goal, you can get back on track if you create a plan and make an effort to stick to it.

Getting back on track doesn’t mean you failed. It only means that you found one way that doesn’t work. Now, it’s time to find a better way that helps you make smarter money moves, progress toward your goals, and achieve the financial success you’ve always wanted.

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