This article originally appeared on LearnVest.com.
I recently fell off my budget—or, rather, got pushed off by a large, unexpected expense at the dentist’s office.
I negotiated a payment plan so I wouldn’t have to pay more than $1,000 all in one go, but that night, as I was walking home, I became really irritated about the payments I’d have to make for the next few months.
Then, I saw—and was lured into—one of my favorite New York City institutions, the Strand bookstore, whose memorable tagline is “18 Miles of Books.”
That’s 18 miles of used books. Used books are cheap, right? Cheap.
That’s what I told myself as I proceeded to walk out with $75 worth of new reading material.
As I walked home, I thought, “I’m so far down the hole already anyway, what’s another $75?”
It turns out that this is a common way of thinking—about budgets, diets (“I already gorged on that cake last night, so what’s a little cookie?”), exercise (“I already missed two workouts, who cares if I miss a third?”) and more. But a few easy tricks can lift anyone out of a damaging downward spiral.
First, let’s figure out why so many of us fall prey to downward spirals in the first place.