How to Keep Setbacks from Ruining your Financial Progress


It finally came. The bill from my ER visit in June. I hadn’t really been dreading it’s arrival per se, but I wasn’t excited to see it either.  I recognized the envelope immediately. After giving birth to two babies at the same hospital, and having one of them in the NICU for 19 days, I am intimately familiar with the look and feel of mail from the billing department.

I mentioned in my June financial update that our medical debt was currently “to be determined,” and now I can replace that with a real number – $518.14. Anyone trying to dig their way out of debt would not be thrilled to add $500 to their debt total. We are working so hard to subtract from our debt, not add! Some may even view such a bill as a major setback, or at the very least a step backward.

But I am not letting that $518.14 debt get me down or discourage me. It’s one of many setbacks on my journey to financial fitness and I am going to take it in stride. Here’s how …

How to Keep Setbacks from Ruining your Financial Progress

keep setbacks from ruining financial progress

You have to change your mindset.

The secret is in your mind!

For many years I have said things like “We will never get ahead” and “It’s always something!” in response to unwanted bills and unexpected expenses. This is negative thinking and it is toxic. Repeating these phrases does not bring me closer to financial fitness, financial freedom, or wealth. Holding onto this mindset won’t help me tackle my debt or reach my goals. In fact, it will eventually lead me to just giving up altogether. Because why bother trying at all if “something is always happening,” and “we will never get ahead?”

I have shifted my mindset. Today I have learned to say, “I know how to handle this.” I have the financial knowledge and resources to handle this bill. I know how to create and execute a plan to pay off this debt. I know how to adjust the categories of my budget, to make room for a new bill. I know how to buckle down and clean up any excess spending so I can throw more money at debt. I know how to find extra money – whether it is through selling something, or finding additional work. I have done this before, and it does get easier every time.

“Life happens.”

Bad things WILL keep happening. And that’s not me being negative! It’s realistic, it’s life. We will get sick, we will get hurt, we will break things, we will lose things. This is one of the main reasons why I want to be financially fit. To be prepared for life. I want to be able to handle whatever it throws at me with less stress and worry. To be prepared for medical expenses, job losses, car repairs, and other life circumstances.  To be able to check the mail and find that $500 bill without experiencing a sense of dread and panic.

Now I have to decide if this bill is an emergency or not. Dave Ramsey would say no (since I knew it was coming and could plan for it by setting money aside in a medical expenses sinking fund), but I don’t always follow his advice exactly. I’m leaning towards “not an emergency” and will likely set up a payment plan through the hospital. But it is really exciting progress to know I could pay the bill in full immediately with my current amount of savings if I wanted to! I’m choosing to focus on the positive, to see my progress, and to not let a little “setback” get me down! 🙂

Have you experienced any setbacks lately? How’s your mindset?

keep setbacks from ruining financial progress

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  1. We are working to get out of debt and this weekend was a doozy for us! The timer/control panel on our hot water heater got fried: $120, my car started overheating: new water pump $500, but like you, I’m trying to keep my head up and know that we have the money to cover those expenses in our emergency fund and I don’t have to go into further debt to deal with them! Good luck on you debt pay off!

    • I’m so sorry those expenses popped up for you Brandy! I feel your pain. Keep your chin up and keep moving forward though, you’ve got this! 🙂

  2. Tell me about… life happens that’s for sure!
    First the washer is on the fritz then the mac gets a wee little crack in the screen. I just blinked and am bleeding $1200. Time to plan and budge a whole lot better!

    • Oh no Heather! I’m sorry to hear that! But you’ve got this! Keep your head up and keep working on your finances! 🙂

  3. I love reading your posts. You always try to stay positive and see the good in things. Not to mention being financially stable is such a stress reliever.

    • aww thanks Stephanie! That’s a really sweet comment and it actually made my day! I would love to be known for being positive! 🙂 🙂 🙂

  4. I love that you have changed your mindset – that is the first step to being able to handle those crazy things that come up. Just when I thought we were getting ahead, one of my pets got ill and cost us over $2000 at the vet. It took me a day or two, but I adjusted and kept moving forward.
    Cynthia recently posted…The best homemade enchilada sauce, you will love itMy Profile

    • Oh my goodness Cynthia I hope your pet is feeling better! That was a pretty steep vet bill but I’m sure it was worth it.

  5. Mindset is everything! I’ve learned to focus on the positive, and even have been doing daily affirmations which has worked wonders!

    • Yes! I love affirmations Brianne! I need to make mine a daily habit. If you ever blog about your affirmations I’d love to read it!

  6. Bills are a fact of life. I like your approach to opening those bills. Very encouraging.

  7. setbacks will certainly happen. I like your first point – change our mindset. We just have to expect the unexpected, and keep trudging along!
    Julie @ Fab Working Mom Life recently posted…How to Help your Toddler who won’t Eat, advice from a PediatricianMy Profile

  8. Sounds like you have a great mindset! New debt is never fun but you’re right in that it’s all about how you approach it! We have an emergency fund set up and it has eased our mind about emergencies.
    Tori @ The Mama Nurse recently posted…A Nurse’s Guide to Knowing When to Take Your Baby to the ERMy Profile

    • You’re so smart for having an emergency fund Tori! Everyone needs one. Ours is slowly growing and it makes me so happy!

  9. You’re right, life happens, and plans don’t always go 100%. Just don’t let it deter you from what you’re trying to achieve. And it could have been sooooo much worse! For a hospital bill, $500 isn’t bad at all! 🙂
    Samantha @ Momma Wants Java recently posted…Planner Decoration that is Easy, Affordable, & FunctionalMy Profile

    • I know! I thought $500 was pretty good! I mean I don’t want to spend $500 on medical debt but it could have been so much worse! I mean I have seen NICU bills … 🙂

  10. It’s important to have the right mindset! I’ve learned to focus on the positive and moving towards our goals!!!

  11. Mindset is everything. We just bought a new house and something is always popping up unexpectedly. I feel you.

    • I’m just one year into home ownership Jamie Lee so I totally get that!! Always something, but we need to prepare for the unexpected as much as we can and stay positive! 🙂

  12. I’m learning that mindset is everything when it comes to paying down debt. Love your point of view on this bill! I always struggle with what constitutes an emergency for using the savings account, too. Keep plugging away!
    Jamie @ Medium Sized Family recently posted…7 Ways to Pile Up Christmas Money: SimplifyMy Profile

    • I have Dave’s voice ringing in my head that it’s not an emergency Jamie – hoping I’m not the only one hearing voices 😉 I set up a payment plan for now, but will hopefully attack it and pay it off early! 🙂 Mindset is so so crucial because this is not a journey for the lighthearted! 🙂

  13. very motivational post! Positive mindset and perseverance all the way to the goal of living debt-free! Blessings!

  14. Sounds like you have the right attitude. Of course things will come along and set you back. That’s life, but it’s important to remember, it’s just a bump in the road and don’t let it derail your bigger plans.

    Sally @ Life Loving

    • So many bumps in life, right Sally? 🙂 I’m learning to take them all in stride, because you’re right, I don’t want them to derail my bigger goals and plans.

  15. Erin, I am so happy that you are not letting this get you down. It was a wake up call as well as a bill to pay. You need to take care of you, I know that there are so many other things going on, but your family needs you at the center of things, so you need to take care of yourself. It’s so good to see you writing and I love the FB updates with the boys. Keep it up, you will be able to handle whatever comes your way! You got this! xx
    Nikki Frank-Hamilton recently posted…Stunning Shots – Daisy – He Loves Me…My Profile

  16. You are right, things happen and we need to be mentally prepared for them. We just had $500 in vet bills. All you can do is stay positive and stay on track.
    Thanks for sharing at Over The Moon party,

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