Showing Yourself Financial Forgiveness

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Showing yourself financial forgiveness is hard to do. In part because we are our own worst critic and in part because we're always making new mistakes.

Last week was an interesting one in my household. Between looking for an apartment, side hustles, and working on video editing projects, I was feeling quite overwhelmed. Whenever I get that way, one of the first things that gets thrown out the window is self-compassion.

It’s like I somehow expect myself to be 100 percent at everything going on…which is damn near impossible. And when it comes to financial matters, I really start to beat myself up because somehow running a personal finance blog makes me immune to financial mistakes. You can go ahead and laugh now.

Financial Mistakes


Mistake number one was a notice I got from the State of California regarding my 2013 taxes. They said I still owed $228, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. After a couple calls (one to my condescending and soon to be ex-accountant), and checking old paperwork, I realized I made out the check I was supposed to pay to the Franchise Tax Board, to the United States Treasury instead.

What’s still perplexing is someone cashed it, but who? Did I sent it to the IRS or to the State of California? Regardless (it will require some more digging), I am the one who still made the mistake, and I outwardly cursed myself over and over for being such an “idiot.”

Mistake number two came when I found a two-bedroom apartment, and was in a huge hurry to get the application back before someone snagged the place up. On the form it required my credit information. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially because I know I have excellent credit, but  going through my stack of credit cards, and trying to find out which ones were active and which ones weren’t, and trying to figure out which ones I opened when, was like beating my head against a wall. I was calling myself names for being so completely disorganized with all my cards….and just my paperwork in general.

The Science behind negative thoughts


According to, “psychologists believe we have between 60,000-70,000 thoughts a day and approximately 80% of those thoughts are negative or self-damaging.”

I’m sure many of you out there with less than stellar finances, or even financial organization, have probably at one time or another externally or internally berated yourself for not being somehow more financially responsible.

I not only do that on occasion, but often ruminate about what I could have done differently financially, especially after becoming a freelancer.

And the bad news about negative self talk is it can become habitual, a part of yourself you might hardly even notice because you do it so often. As Jann Chin pointed out in the Your Tango piece, “habitually thinking negatively or “beating yourself up” results in the real belief that you’re “not good enough,” stupid, or can’t do anything right.” She continued, “unfortunately, it’s impossible to feel confident and successful when you’re constantly “beating yourself down.”

Showing yourself Financial Forgiveness


1. Learn from the past. We all know that we can’t change the past, but we can certainly learn from it. It’s been said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. So examine what went wrong and map out a new course, so that you can try and change things for the better.

Showing yourself financial forgiveness is hard to do. In part because we are our own worst critic and in part because we're always making new mistakes.

2. Be compassionate to yourself. When you start to have a mini meltdown about current financial mistakes, the first step to stop negative thoughts is awareness that you are in that mode, and begin to use more compassionate self-talk.

I once heard author and lifestyle guru Kris Carr say that when she wants to get mad at herself, she pulls out a picture of herself from her childhood…especially one that is very cute and sweet, then imagines trying to yell the same negative words at that little girl. Suddenly, you start to have more self-compassion, because you wouldn’t want to yell those words at that cute little kid.

3. Slow down and organize. I don’t know about you, but if paperwork of any kind piles up on my table, I start to feel yucky. And said paperwork usually starts piling up because I’m taking on too much.

Set aside one day per week or per month (whatever you feel you need) to get your paperwork in order. How many times in your life have you accidentally missed a payment for something because it was buried under a mound of “stuff” and you forgot about it? Doing a little bit at a time is far less overwhelming then waiting until the pile becomes out of control.


Have you ever berated yourself for making financial mistakes? How do you talk to yourself when you realize you’ve made a financial mistake? What do you do to maintain a positive attitude and treat yourself with compassion and understanding?

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Tonya Stumphauzer

Tonya is a video editor/producer and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball, playing ukulele, and running. Visit her blog Budget & the Beach!


  • Mistakes happen, it’s what you learn and do going forward that counts!

  • Miriam says:

    I used to be a marriage counsellor and one of the tidbits I gleaned in my studies was a phrase that went like this:’

    “How I talk to you is how I talk to me only worse”.

    I used to remind people that if they listen to each other and especially to themselves talking to the other they get a strong clue as to how they make themselves feel bad. Most people were not aware of how they talked to themselves at all.

  • I am having a particularly bad financial month this month. My lawnmower broke beyond repair, which meant that we had to buy a new one. Then we also had to hire someone to replace some bricks on our chimney. That isn’t cheap! Our budget flew out the window in that respect, but at least we are on track in every other category.
    I wouldn’t call those things mistakes, but they definitely allow negative thoughts to creep into my head.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      Yeah either way it’s no fun. I guess the one thing about mistakes is they make good stories, even if you can only laugh about it years later. 🙂

  • I am usually pretty level headed, but I threw an all out fit, a real throwing stuff and swearing fit, this past weekend when I lost a gift card to Fuddruckers. I don’t even like Fuddruckers that much, but I just totally beat myself up for losing that stupid gift card.It’s funny now, but I’m not sure why we can’t congratulate ourselves on the million and one things we do right but beat ourselves up over the one thing we do wrong.

    BTW, Jim found the gift card in the trash. I have no idea how it got there or even if we’ll use it, but it is in a very secure place at the moment!

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      “It’s funny now, but I’m not sure why we can’t congratulate ourselves on the million and one things we do right but beat ourselves up over the one thing we do wrong.” That’s so freaking true Kim. We always tend to have the negative thoughts stick with us more than we do when we’ve done something awesome. Stupid human nature. Glad you found it.

  • Great tip about slowing down and organizing. I know I’ve berated myself for financial decisions and situations in the past (and I’m sure I will again in the future!). It’s crazy how much of an impact positive thoughts can have on you. Psychology is a field I want to study when I finally get that mysterious thing called “free time.”

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      I’m sorry what is that called again? 🙂 I’m so intrigued by human nature and behavior too. In a parallel universe I’m an anthropologist!

  • Erin M says:

    I think just about all of us can relate, Tonya! I’m very guilty of expecting 100% from myself, at all times. That’s just not sustainable. We all trip up and make mistakes, especially when we don’t leave room for taking a break.

    I’ve made some silly financial mistakes in the past that I got stuck on for a while, but nowadays, I try to let it roll off my shoulders and say, “It is what it is.” Thankfully it hasn’t been anything major, but that attitude gets me headed in the right direction when I’m otherwise pessimistic.

    • Tonya Stumphauzer says:

      I think it’s the Type A talking. 🙂 I’m guilty of fighting that beast constantly. I wish I was so much more mellow and laid back. 🙂

  • Jason B says:

    You were 100% right when you said “learn from your past”. I made a couple money mistakes back in the day. I have definitely learned from them.

  • The busier I am, the more inclined I am to make mistakes… so, number three is something I’m working on. I’m not there yet, but it’s happening slowly. I really do my best not to fall into the negative self-talk trap. It’s a bottomless pit that’s best avoided.

    Sometimes, you just need to stop, take a deep breath and then go have a stiff drink. 🙂

  • I had a massive financial disruption around November or last year and I kicked myself for weeks after it happened and all that I got from that experience was more pain and more tears. It didn’t change the fact that the situation was over and done with. Once I committed to truly putting the situation behind me and focusing on more positive things, I felt like everything else started coming together. It’s so hard to let go and forgive ourselves, but it’s amazing what a relief we can get when we do it.

  • Revanche says:

    Focusing on the negative is WAY too easy – I’ve noticed that I can relive the shame of some stupid or embarrassing thing I did 25 years ago, but I can’t remember the last good thing that happened to me at home or at work within the last week. Our brains are peculiarly wired. It’s not like remembering that silly childhood mistake as vividly as I do helps me avoid making it again, it’s not relevant!

    I’m doubly bad about self-flagellation on financial errors, specifically because I write about and think about money so much, I expect myself to be excellent and uh, perfect? Which is also silly.

    Self compassion – it’s such a good thing!

  • I have a huge problem with negative thoughts. It’s kind of nice to know that I fall well within normal range. I always assumed the depression just made me worse.

    I’ve had to put the kibosh on shame spirals. With a Type A personality and chronic fatigue, I spent a lot of time beating myself up. Then I realized that I wouldn’t change anything, and I was wasting valuable energy.

    So now when my brain starts going to negative places, I just say “No” or “Stop” aloud. It’s a little embarrassing, but it interrupts the train of thought.

  • You are so right. You can’t go back and re-do things, but you can learn from them so you don’t repeat your financial mistakes (or any mistakes really) in the future.

  • Karen says:

    I constantly get annoyed with myself for making financial mistakes. I think we tend to be harder on ourselves because we are our own worst critics.

    I try not to spend too much time dwelling on it and move on, keep pushing through. If you dwell on it, you’re not making progress on anything. I just organized my desk today and got rid of some papers because the piles just felt so overwhelming. Man, that felt good. 🙂

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