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Financial Discipline

Financial Discipline

Recovering from financial abuse takes a lot of financial discipline. Coming out of a financially abusive relationship can leave a woman both shaken in her financial confidence and broke. It’s not an easy starting point.

I often describe life’s challenges like spirals. If you’ve spiraled down and are at rock bottom, you must turn things around to begin to ride the spiral back up.  

That turning point at the bottom is usually the hardest part.

When you leave a financially abusive relationship, you are already starting to turn and spiral back up, but you are likely at the financial bottom. The only place to go from there is up. But getting the momentum going is difficult.

The key to moving from the bottom up is financial discipline.

It’s impossible to recover financially without serious commitment to watching every penny. Paying attention to what’s going out all the time and working to increase what’s coming in makes all the difference.

Some people are more naturally savers, and some are more naturally spenders.  I’m not sure how you become one or the other, but we tend to lean more in one direction or the other. If you are a saver, like me, then maybe this will be a little bit easier for you. If you are a natural spender, then you will have to work a bit harder to reign yourself in.

Financial Discipline
Financial Discipline

Either way, discipline is the key.

Start by examining your habits and figure out if you have money leaks.  

What are money leaks? Anywhere money is going out that it shouldn’t be or isn’t necessary. Start with the low hanging fruit. In today’s subscription society, it’s easy to sign up for something and forget that you’re paying for it. Review your subscriptions and be sure you really need them all. Once they are set up, they will continue until you cancel them. Perhaps you are paying for three different music streaming services. Trim it back to one.

Other more elusive leaks can be things like overpaying or buying things you think you need but actually just want.

Let’s start with overpaying. Examine everything you buy on a regular basis to be sure you are paying the lowest possible price for the quality that you expect. This could mean going to the discount grocery store for paper goods, canned items or non-perishables that are the same quality wherever you buy them.  Sometimes the perishables aren’t top quality at discount markets, so perhaps you’ll choose to get those at your regular store. Or it could mean trimming a service back from the top tier to a basic package.

The next step is to reevaluate if things you call “needs” are actually “wants.”

If you are new to financial recovery, you likely can’t afford to have too many wants in your monthly budget. For now, sticking to needs is important. The wants will come in time. Be honest with yourself. Do you really “need” those new shoes? No, those are a want unless you have holes in the current pair.  

This area can be especially tricky if you have kids. Trying to buy our kids love, particularly if you’re going through a contentious divorce, is an easy trap to fall into. Try to control the impulse to outdo the ex. It isn’t smart parenting, and it isn’t financially conducive to recovery. Tough love may be necessary to teach them that when times are tough buying things makes it worse. Set a good example for them by restricting your own “want” purchases.

Financial recovery requires financial discipline.

Becoming aware of all your spending and watching for money leaks will help you stay in charge of your finances. You are the money manager now and you will need to be the one that makes the tough choices. Once you get used to it, though, it will feel great.  

Financial Discipline
Financial Discipline

You will learn the power of deciding when and where to spend or not spend.

Control is power. In a good way. When you control your spending and learn to be disciplined about where your money goes, then you can start making strategic moves to improve your life.  

Knowing how much you have and what you need to cover your needs will help you move toward financial freedom.

The last step is determining if you need to increase your income. If you do, then you can work on changing jobs, asking for a raise or promotion, or finding a way to earn money on a side hustle. Part of recovering is overcoming any earning blocks that you have. Financial discipline means facing the fear you carry about earning what you’re worth. This too is a process that will take time. Start where you are and move the needle one day, one step at a time, until you are ready to earn your true potential.

Turning the spiral around and moving upward is where financial recovery starts. Having good financial discipline will build the momentum that will help you spiral upward faster and further. Financial freedom is possible with discipline and time.

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at Join our FB group

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