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Lessons from a Three Year Old: Everybody Makes Mistakes

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Kids say some pretty cute things. I think we can all agree on that. My three year old, Nicholas, is no exception. I have no idea where he gets some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. Most of it is humorous, but some of it is quite enlightening. His latest quip is that whenever he gets caught doing something he knows he shouldn’t be doing, or whenever he makes some sort of “mess” around the house (which these days is quite often), he looks up at me with his big brown eyes and says “Daddy, everybody makes mistakes.”

Well, how can you argue with logic like that? No matter how upset I am with him at the time, this little quote usually draws at least a little smile from me, and we usually just clean up the mess together. Or if it’s for doing something he shouldn’t be dong, the scolding he gets is usually a great deal lighter than normal.

But just recently, I started thinking about his little one-liner and how it can be applied to us as adults, especially relating to personal finance. I think that I keep a very tight reign over my finances, yet every once in a while, it happens: the financial mistake.

The Financial Mistake

Maybe it’s a bill I forgot to pay or maybe it’s a great sale that I missed out on just because I overlooked it. Maybe it’s paying too much for an item just because I didn’t look around enough. Or in more extreme cases, maybe it’s because of a bank withdrawal I forgot to record, resulting in bounced checks and the incredible fees and charges that go along with that.

All of these have happened to me in the past year or so. Some resulted in lost savings, some, more serious, resulted in hundreds of dollars needlessly wasted. Regardless, they all drove me nuts.

How to Handle Them

The next question that comes to mind is, how do you handle them?  Obviously, they happen to even the best of us, no matter how “sharp” or how “on top of” things we happen to be. So, what do you do? Do you beat yourself up to no end, letting it nag at you for days? I don’t think so. Do you yearn for the lost savings or the wasted money like a long lost girlfriend? I doubt it.  After a lot of thinking on the subject, I came up with a four step plan on how to deal with these financial “hiccups”:

1. Cool Off

These situations drive me nuts, they really do. Even if it is just a few dollars that I could have saved on my groceries had I checked another grocer before buying, it still bugs me a lot. The first thing you need to do is cool off and let go.

2. Learn From It

These situations happen for a reason and you need to make sure you don’t lose sight of that fact. You have to learn something from each one of these mistakes so they don’t happen again.

3. Find a Solution

The next step is to figure out a solution to the problem to again, ensure that they don’t repeat themselves. Keep better track of your bank withdrawals; make sure you check your grocer’s flyers each week before venturing out for the groceries, or list out all of your monthly bills on a master sheet so you’ll no longer “forget” to pay any of them. Whatever it may be, find and implement a solution.

4. Forgive and Forget

Finally, you need to forgive yourself. You can allow these little bumps in the road to eat at you forever, or you can forgive yourself and move on. And, after you’ve learned from your mistake, after you’ve put a solution in place, and after you’ve forgiven yourself, guess what? Forget about it! Get it out of your mind, put it behind you, get back on track and keep moving in the right direction financially. Do not let these things slow you down.

Do you have a story of a recent financial mistake you’ve made and what you did to fix it? Let our readers know about it below.

David Bakke
David started his own personal finance blog, YourFinances101, in June of 2009 and published his first book on ways to save more and spend less called "Don't Be A Mule..." Since then he has been a regular contributor for Money Crashers. He lives just outside Atlanta, GA and most all of his free time is taken up by his amazing three year old son, Nicholas.

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