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How to Recover From a Big Money Mistake

By Christy Bieber - Mar 8, 2020 at 10:02AM

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Even a large error doesn't have to define your future.

Managing money successfully can be challenging, and no one is perfect at it. In fact, money mistakes are very common; everyone makes them from time to time. The key is, when something goes wrong, you need to respond quickly and correctly so you can minimize the damage.

Figuring out what to do when your financial management has gone off the rails can be a big challenge, but with these simple steps, you can recover and hopefully prevent similar problems in the future. 

Couple sitting on a couch looking at financial paperwork in dismay.

Image source: Getty Images.

Take stock of your situation

First, you need to figure out what your mistake has done to your financial stability. If it left you in debt, make a list of how much you owe. If it's damaged your credit, check what your new score is. Whatever the error, you can't come back from it until you know what you have to recover from. 

Identify ways to mitigate the damage

After determining how your mistake has set you back, it's time to find ways to fix the problem. This might mean making a debt payoff plan, bumping up your retirement savings if you took money out of a 401(k) and incurred penalties, or figuring out how to raise your credit score after a bad patch. 

The key is to try to get back to where you were as quickly as possible by making an aggressive plan to undo the damage. If you have a lot of debt because of your disaster, for example, you may want to think about working an extra job to pay it back more quickly. 

Determine the cause of your error

You don't want to make the same money mistakes that require you to work so hard to keep correcting, so figure out what went wrong. This may mean reviewing your financial accounts to see if you overspent, figuring out why you don't have an emergency fund and how to save one, or trying to determine how a bill fell through the cracks. A little introspection can go a long way toward identifying why you hit a bump in the road. 

Make a plan to prevent similar problems

After identifying the reason for your money mistake, you should be able to find a way to change course.

If you overspent on Christmas, for example, you can set a holiday budget now and save up a small amount each month so this doesn't happen to you next time. If you ended up borrowing because you couldn't stick to your budget, this might mean switching to a different system such as keeping cash in envelopes labeled for different categories of expenditures and buying those things only until the cash is gone each month. 

The solution will be personal based on the cause of your money problem, but you want it to be something concrete, workable, and measurable. If your mistake was overspending, for example, you don't want to just say you'll spend less; this isn't an actionable plan. 

You don't have to let a money mistake mess up your financial future

By taking these steps after a money mistake, you can lessen the damage from your error and reduce the likelihood of a repeat. And you'll come back from your financial faux pas stronger than ever. 

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