Please welcome Liz from Budgeting for More as our guest contributor today.
Most of us have big financial goals: from home ownership, to retirement, education, and debt payoff. These financial goals can require years of hard work and dedication. The top priority for my husband and I currently is to pay off our mountain of student loan debt.
Our debt payoff journey has taken us nearly four years and will probably take another two years to complete. It’s been a long journey. Glen recently mentioned here that he and his wife would like to buy a new house and they need to start watching their budget to make sure they can afford it on a single income. Talk about a great financial goal! Here are 5 tips for staying motivated to reach your financial goals:
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1) Reward yourself
Reaching our financial goal of debt payoff has taken us years. Treating ourselves for the hard work helps keep us motivated. You absolutely cannot deprive yourself while working towards a financial goal. It’s like running a marathon without re-hydrating along the way. We’ve chosen to celebrate each month we make our payment goal. We keep our rewards fun, but frugal and typically spend $20 or less. Our favorite rewards include grabbing drinks at happy hour or a visit to our favorite doughnut shop for breakfast on the weekend.
2) Weekly progress meeting
Like Glen mentioned, it’s easy to sort of lose track of your spending sometimes. My husband and I are both guilty of occasionally getting the “$5 won’t hurt anything” mentality. To avoid overspending, we check-in and review our spending each week together. Holding a weekly meeting keeps us accountable for our spending. This meeting also gives us the opportunity to discuss our upcoming expenses such as car maintenance or if Ruby (our dog) needs a refill on her prescription medication. It took a while to get into the routine, but now each Wednesday we always discuss our finances and it usually takes about 15 minutes. It’s easy and keeps us focused.
3) Automate savings
Even though our priority is to pay off student loan debt, we still believe we need to have a savings set aside for emergencies. Automated savings was a no-brainer for us. Using this feature at our bank ensures that our savings goal (while minimal) is met each month and helps keep our portfolio balanced. We can focus our energy on other areas such as debt repayment and budget management instead of remembering to make a monthly contribution to savings. It’s one goal that we can feel good about achieving each month.
4) Utilize a budgeting tool
Financial goals can often times be complicated and require you to carefully manage your money. Why not utilize a little technology to help you manage your finances? Internet-based Mint.com and YNAB (You Need a Budget) are free tools for budgeting and tracking expenses. Quicken is a great software-based program for budgeting and financial management as well. We personally use Quicken and it makes tracking our budget painless.
5) Remind yourself why
Reaching some financial goals (like debt payoff) can be really hard. We’ve had really bad days where we are totally overwhelmed with the process. Just remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and you will get there! Your hard work is for a very good reason and it will pay off someday. What keeps me motivated is thinking about the first month after we’ve paid back our loan and we don’t have that student loan payment going out of our checking account. I’m pretty sure that will be one of the best feelings ever. This is why we are working so hard now. Dreaming about reaching this goal keeps me motivated today.
What do you do to stay motivated to reach your financial goals?
Liz is the owner of the blog, Budgeting for More. She writes about paying off student loans, frugal living, and maintaining a fun lifestyle while living on a budget. Check out her site and connect to her via twitter as well.