Are You Self-Sabotaging Your Financial Goals?

Deciding to set a goal to pay off debt or save for a house is easy. The hard part is actually taking the steps to make the goal a reality—especially when you’re bound to encounter mental detours along the way. Learning to navigate this [completely normal] self-sabotage is an important part of your journey—what the end goal may be.

It’s not a diet—it’s life-long change

We all know that diets, well, suck. Temporarily depriving yourself in the hope of reaching a goal isn’t just difficult—it’s not sustainable. (It’s also why you couldn’t with that cayenne-pepper-and-lemon “master” cleanse your BFF was gushing over...then quit a day later.) The trick? Replace your potentially self-sabotaging habit with one that is not only sustainable, but enjoyable, too.

For example, say you and your work wife/hubby go out for lunch every day. You appreciate the camaraderie, the break from the office, the fresh air; but, you’ve also got a massive student loan payment that’s preventing you from accomplishing other important goals. If you decide to get serious about the loans, don’t just look for a temporary fix—find a new way to continue to enjoy lunch AND save more money. Maybe you both start bringing your lunch, and sitting in the park instead. Maybe you decide to catch up on coffee breaks instead. Or maybe you scale back your eating out to once a week. With a little bit of trial and error, you’ll eventually find a new habit or activity that still provides the positive feelings you crave, but at a much lower financial cost.

Give yourself a break

Another reason financial resolutions tend to fizzle out is because of deprivation. After all, we can’t expect to give up absolutely everything when pursuing a goal, and not have it catch up with us eventually. If you’re aiming to save for a house, it would certainly be admirable if every spare penny ever single month went toward saving for a down payment. But let’s be honest: it’s going to be pretty tough to maintain that laser-like focus in the long-term. Your willpower is like a reservoir; just as there’s a finite amount of water in a reservoir, you, too, have a finite amount of willpower—and once your reserve has been depleted, all bets are off. The key is to save your willpower for the stuff that really matters.

Give yourself permission to do one or two things a week that you love, but that also cost money. Maybe it’s going to the movies, buying a pound of $15 organic coffee, or ordering your favorite author’s latest book. Whatever it is, allow yourself to spend without shame; that way, the willpower you would have used to avoid doing something you love, can now be spent saying “no” to something you love less. Yes, it’ll take longer to reach your goal than if you hadn’t spent any money, but you’d be more likely to never reach your goal if you were driven to fall off the wagon completely. Bonus: by letting yourself indulge in those things that bring you happiness, you’ll not only be reaching your goals—you’ll be participating in life along the way.

By arranging your life to find happiness and contentment that also help you meet your financial goals, several things will happen:

  • You won’t feel deprived.
  • You won’t backslide into old habits or behaviors once you reach your goal.
  • You’ll start putting yourself first in other aspects of your life as well—and what could be better than a little #selflove?

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paycheck, money management & planning