Motivate Yourself By Setting Goals And Rewarding Yourself When You Meet Them

My wife and I have been seriously paying attention to our finances since earlier this year when we took Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. We’ve never been in bad financial shape, but we’d never really been getting ahead either. That all started to change when we realized that in order to get ahead, we had to make a plan.

One of the first things we did was to sit down, and figure out an entire cash flow plan. We wrote down what money was coming in, what expenses we had, and then what we had left over. Next we found ways to reduce expenses in certain areas and then set up a complete zero-based budget where every dollar was allocated before it hit the account. Next we set up an envelope spending plan where some of our problem categories were paid only in cash, out of an envelope. When the money was gone from the envelope, the spending on that category stopped.

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All of these steps were great steps towards getting us up and running towards better financial health, but there was still one thing that was missing. We needed to set goals,and have something that motivated us as we worked towards those goals.

Setting Goals To Work Towards

The class that we were taking, Financial Peace University, has a built in set of goals that you are working towards.   Among those goals were these 3 goals:

  1. Build a $1000 emergency fund.
  2. Pay off debt.
  3. Save 3-6 months of expenses.

We quickly built up our $1000 emergency fund, and since we felt a little more secure with a bit more – we raised it to $2000.   Since we had already paid off all of our debt (except the mortgage) we then moved on to the next goal, to save 3-6 months of expenses.  We were almost all the way to those 6 months of expenses when my car started having problems.  After getting it checked by our local mechanic, we realized that the car was on its last legs.   We took about half of the 5 months of expenses that we had saved, and paid cash for a used car with lower miles.

Now that our 6 months of expenses had been reduced to more like 2-3, our goal is once again to build up that account.   But sometimes having a goal often isn’t enough. Sometimes you need some further motivation in order to push you towards that goal.

My wife and I are movie buffs, one of our favorite things to do is just get a couple of good movies, curl up on the couch and watch movies all day. Because we spend so much time watching movies we decided that we wanted to get a large screen TV in our basement. We knew that our other goals would come first, but as a way to motivate ourselves we decided that we would reward ourselves for saving our 6 months of expenses by purchasing a new 50″ Plasma TV once we reached our goal.

I can’t tell you how motivating it is to have a goal like that. It really makes you want to work that much harder knowing that you’ve got some sort of reward waiting for you on the other side.

Rewards For Meeting Goals Can Be Very Motivating

So here are some of the rewards my wife and I have talked about getting once we’ve reached certain goals.

50″ Plasma TV: We’ve wanted to get this TV for a while, but we know our savings goals take precedence. once we’ve reached those goals, however, we know that we’ll be able to enjoy those movies on the big screen. I’ve been working that much harder because I know this awesome viewing experience waits for me.
Nintendo Wii Gaming Console: We’ve heard a lot of things about the Wii, and have enjoyedplaying the console at our friend’s houses. We can’t justify getting one right now, but wemay use it as a motivating reward down the line sometime.
Blu-Ray DVD Player: We’ve waited to jump on the HD movie bandwagon until now, and we can probably wait a little longer. we’ll eventually get one of these Blu-Ray players as a reward,but in the meantime regular ‘ol DVDs do just fine. By the time we get one they’ll be a lotcheaper!
Another Trip to Europe: We were blessed to have been able to go on a MediterraneanCruise with my wife’s parents this past September. We’ve already talked about using anothertrip as a motivating reward a few years down the line.

What Goals Do You Have? What Rewards?

So what financial goals have you set for yourself? are you finding that you’re able to reach those goals? Have you thought about using rewards to help you reach those goals, or are you doing that already? Leave us a comment telling us about it!

Last Edited: 16th December 2008

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    • says

      hah.. ours probably should be cheaper, but since we go so long without rewards the bigger ones seem to be more motivating for us. Wiser? maybe not :)

  1. says

    I’m confused, you have an EF as separate from saving 3-6 months expenses. I would have considered them to be one and the same. Either way I agree with your mentality. It’s great to save money to be efficient and pay bills, but if you can then save towards something, it makes it worth while.

    i was the same, as you and saved 8 months for a new big screen TV and about 6 months for a new laptop.

    • says

      The emergency funds are all part of the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University class. Basically you have two emergency funds. one of $1000 for smaller emergencies – like a car repairs, health issues, etc. the second fund of 3-6 months is more for bigger problems – like you lose your job and have no paycheck for 6 months, or have a baby and take a month off, etc.

  2. says

    I read Dave’s Total Money Makeover and I interpreted it as saying the $1000 was part of the 3-6 months saving as well. Where does it talk about it being two parts? I must have missed that.

    I have to say I was excited when I saw this post. My husband and I are doing the same thing. When we reach our next step, being free from consumer debt, we’re going to save for a trip to Ireland and a Patio Door for our house. After getting 6 months savings we’re going to remodel our Kitchen and Bathroom. I’m not sure what will come after that but I’m excited to find out!

    Amys last blog post..I got my CISSP results

  3. Jane says

    Excellant article about setting goals I really need to buckle down and make a list. I have just be saving and paying off my credit cards every month.

  4. says

    Great post! And I like your rewards!! You should get a PS3 instead a BluRay though, because they have them built in. My husband and I just finished paying off my student loans- for the education I use so much as a mommy. :D Now we are working on saving our rainy day money. Your goals sound like a pretty good start for sure!

    Happy Holidays

    Moonstruck Mommys last blog post..Big Plans for New Year’s Eve!

  5. says

    Our goals for 2009 include paying off my wife’s student loan, painting the house, and buying new furniture. The reward will be having a baby. Wish us luck.

  6. Dan says

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A mobile version is available too.

  7. harry says

    Great post on goal setting.

    You may also check out, a very nicely built web app designed for tracking goals and todo lists, and has time tracking. It’s clear, focused, easy to navigate, worth a try.

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