We all lose motivation at some point. Take a look at some reasons that someone might start losing motivation to stick with financial goals, and then provide some tips for how to overcome that feeling and stick with the plan.
Motivation is the desire and drive to pursue a goal. Building and sustaining motivation can push you toward money behaviors and choices needed to achieve a financial goal.
But it’s also normal to feel unmotivated and stuck at some point along your money journey. When this happens, it’s time to try some new strategies to fuel our financial growth. Here are some ways to stay motivated with your money goals.
Focus on your “why”
Motivation often comes down to the reasons you have for making change. Specifically, setting money goals that align with a greater sense of life purpose gives them staying power.
Fortunately, you can identify and build purpose in your life and your finances. Get clear about your long-term life goals, and how you can bring more purpose into daily life and money management.
One study finds that a strong sense of purpose corresponds to a $2,578 higher earnings and $14,680 more in net worth, on average. And that makes sense; a focus on your “why” can boost financial goals from earning more to paying down debt, investing, or starting a business. Most purpose-rich goals hinge on good financial health, from a dream to travel the world to a desire to generously donate.
Break Big Goals Into Small Wins
Finding purpose answers the question of “why” — next you’ll need to find your “what” and “how” to use your money to achieve your goals. In other words, break down large financial goals into short-terms steps you can take one at a time.
If you want to pay off a $5,000 credit card balance, set a monthly goal for how much you want to pay above your minimums. If you want to take a dream trip to Australia, you could figure out how much you’d have to save each month to take that vacation 18 months from now.
Something else that boosts motivation: setting yourself up for small wins along the way. If you owe $5,000 across multiple cards, for example, celebrate each account balance you get to $0. Instead of saving for an expensive international trip right off the bat, you might first plan for a $500 weekend getaway.
Aiming for smaller money wins grants positive reinforcement for healthier money habits and gives you a chance to build the skills and momentum needed to reach even bigger goals.
Keep Your Goal In Sight
Motivation to work on your money goals can flag when the wins are fewer, with more time in between. A smart way to bolster your flagging financial motivation is to keep your money goals in sight — literally.
Create visual reminders of your money behaviors and goals, and keep them in a prominent place where you’ll see them each day. Visually tracking your progress is also an excellent way to get that “small win” feeling for each step you take toward your ultimate goal. Use the money goal-tracking charts on Debt Free Charts to help you stay on track.
Even more powerful is to tie this visual cue to positive financial behavior. Say you want to curb unnecessary spending, so you stick a post-it note to your credit card asking, “Is this purchase aligned with my money goals?” You can couple this with a process: you read the post-it note before every purchase, take 30 seconds to honestly answer it, and then proceed accordingly.
Make Financial Progress Social
If you’ve ever been peer-pressured into joining friends for a night out even if it puts you over your budget, you’ve experienced the power of social motivation. As social beings, the approval and acceptance of others are powerful motivators that you can tap into to amp up financial goals.
This “performance-based motivation” pushes you to, well, outperform others, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Invite a friend or even a group of friends to recurring financial check-ins. You can share progress to get motivating positive reinforcement. Or talk about setbacks, hold yourself accountable, and get feedback or encouragement. You could even work in some friendly competition by setting up a money contest or challenge.
Notice and Address Demotivators
The issue isn’t always that we lack the motivation to work toward goals — but that we’re motivated to work against them. Our desire to achieve our goals is often paired with resistance. This “avoidance motivation” pushes us away from uncomfortable or undesirable experiences.
There are many demotivators that block progress on financial goals, whether it’s the discomfort of change, a lack of energy, or high levels of stress. If you find yourself feeling stuck, tease out where this resistance is coming from.
Once you understand the demotivating factors you’re up against, you can find ways to address those. For example, if you avoid thinking about money because you’re dealing with financial stress, you might need to directly manage those worries to re-motivate yourself.
Have a Plan for When Motivation Flags
Of course, motivation can (and will) flag. You could get bored, or find that your motivation doesn’t correlate to results. If you don’t want money goals to be at the mercy of your current level of motivation, you need a plan for when it’s missing.
Use initial motivation and momentum to build positive money habits and systems that are self-sustaining. Automate money tasks to take your willpower and motivation out of the equation. For example, set up direct deposit of a portion of your paycheck to savings, or schedule a recurring extra debt payment after each payday.
New behaviors require effort and motivation, but eventually become familiar options and then habits. Sticking to your budget or saving to pay yourself won’t always be as hard as it is those first few months.
Boosting your financial literacy and improving money management is its own reward, thanks to “mastery-based motivation” — a natural drive to learn and gain competency, according to the APA. As you learn more and do better with your money, you can feel more confident in your financial security and resiliency.