When You Don’t Hit Your Financial Goals

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When I started this blog, I released my secret goal to the world: be debt free (minus the mortgage) by 33! So exciting!

Nope.

Once it became clear that we wouldn’t quite hit that goal by my 33rd birthday, I revised it to: be debt free (minus the mortgage) by the end of 2016! We can do it! Go team!

Nope.

We had guests over on New Year’s Eve, and our friend took a look at our debt snowball chart on the fridge. She remarked about how well we were doing. All I could feel was the distance between the last $8700 and the finish line. We’d failed to reach our goal.

I have always been my own harshest critic (or at least I think I have. Maybe there’s someone out there who also enjoys keeping track of my failures. Weird hobby, though.) It’s easy for me to overlook my own successes and instead see where I’ve fallen short. We all do that to some degree. While it can be valuable to recognize your failures, it’s even more important to learn from them, then create a plan to either revise your goals or revise your approach.

If you, like me, missed your 2016 financial goals, then follow these steps to get back on track for 2017:

STEP ONE | Celebrate the progress that you HAVE made: We missed our goal by $8700. In the meantime, we paid off over $21,000 in debt last year. If someone else told me that they paid off that much debt in one year, I would congratulate them, not ask, “yeah loser, but how much do you have LEFT?”

STEP TWO | Do a financial goal post-mortem: Identify the why behind missing your goal. We had a few big unexpected expenses last year–a tree that needed to be cut down, hospital bills–but those were only part of the equation. We couldn’t control those. What we could control was our monthly budget. Every time we overspent, whether it was on groceries, going out to eat, clothes, or gifts for others, it moved us further from our goal.

STEP THREE | Check your budget: If you’re consistently missing the mark on your budget, check to see if your numbers are realistic. I’ve found that if I set a budget category too low, I inevitably overspend, and then for the rest of the month, very easily slide into a “oh well…might as well keep spending, since I’ve already missed the mark this month” mindset.

STEP FOUR | Set a new goal: Now that you’ve celebrated how far you’ve come, figured out why you missed your goal, and checked to make sure you were taking the best approach, it’s time to set a new goal. If that one big goal feels too big, try breaking it down into a few smaller “milestone” goals (instead of “pay off $20,000 by the end of this year,” try, “pay off $5,000 by the end of March.”) Breaking your big goal down into chunks might help you wrap your head around it.

STEP FIVE | Enlist support: Don’t keep your goal to yourself. By telling friends and family, having a shared goal with your spouse, or partnering with a friend, you create a source of accountability.

Tell me: what financial goals did you reach (or miss) last year? What are your financial goals this year?

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