Motivation plays a huge role in achieving goals. Whether you’re trying to pay off debt, saving for a home down payment, or saving for your dream of retiring early, at some point, motivation will come in to play as you sacrifice what you want now in pursuit of your future goal.
But what happens when you lose your money motivation?
It happened to me. I’ve worked towards many money goals over the past six years. I’ve paid off student loans and two car loans, I’ve paid for international travel with cash, and I bought my first home with a 10% down payment. Most of the time I was incredibly motivated and strove to reach my goals as quickly as possible.
But there was one time that I almost completely lost my money motivation, and it was because of a little thing called online banking.
Last year I set the goal to pay off my $20,000 car loan by the end of the year, and I was extremely motivated to reach this goal. I used online banking to make payments on my loan, just as I’ve done for many years. I’ve always loved online banking. With my loan and account balances just a click away, I could easily keep track of my progress. But last year, online banking became a curse.
I was so motivated to achieve my goal that every morning I would log into my online banking to check my balances. I would check if any freelance income had come in, I would check to see if my latest payments went through, and I would check to see if this month’s accrued interest had been applied to the loan.
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Keeping a close eye on your account balances is a good habit. Checking your balances every day (or even multiple times a day), on the other hand, is obsessive. When I started checking my online banking every few hours, I began to lose my money motivation.
You see, from my point of view, I wasn’t progressing on my goal fast enough. I’d check my balance, and then, several hours later I would check again, and nothing had changed. I’d feel discouraged. I’d feel like I wasn’t making any progress.
Of course, this was far from reality.
I was making progress – a lot of progress! This car loan was well on its way to decimation, but I was so caught up in my obsessive bank balance checking that I hadn’t noticed. I lost my drive to execute my plan of paying off my car loan in one year. I felt bored, and I even had a moment or two where I spent money I shouldn’t have because sending it towards my debt felt pointless. I’d lost all of my money motivation.
Fortunately, I didn’t fall off the wagon for long. Eventually, I realized what was happening, and I put a stop to my obsessive bank balance checking. Every time I felt the need to log into my online banking, I stopped myself. It was hard, but eventually, my obsession lessened.
I lost my money motivation due to my obsession with my account balances, but it can happen for many reasons – and it can happen to anyone. Setbacks, emergencies, temptation, any of these can cause you to lose your money motivation, to feel like you aren’t progressing with your goals, and you might even be tempted to give up on your goals, just like me.
Here’s how I eventually got my money motivation back, and how you can too:
Resist the temptation to become obsessive
Tell me if this sounds familiar: When you get excited about a new goal, you go all out at first. You plan, you map, you download apps and programs to help you meet your goal, and you track everything — for a while. While this obsessive behaviour might feel productive at first, it’s unlikely you can keep up this level of participation in your finances over the long term – especially because it takes a while to see results.
Taking a measured, incremental approach to your finances is healthier and more sustainable. Resist the urge to go all in on your new goal immediately. Work up to it in a sustainable, healthy way.
Set smart goals
When you’re ready to start setting goals, the quality of your goals is important to your success. Goals must be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. For example, saying you want to pay off more credit card debt isn’t specific enough. In contrast, paying off $10,000 in debt by the end of the year is!
Just like losing weight, it can be easy to feel like you aren’t making progress with your money if you don’t measure your progress. Every month, I would record the starting balance of my car loan, and all payments. At the end of the month, I would record the current balance. Whenever I felt like I was losing my motivation, I would check the numbers realize that I’d paid off $5,000 since January, or $1,200 in the past month – and that was a great level of progress.
This cold, hard, data was enough to convince me to stop obsessing over my bank balance and trust the process.
Move on from mistakes
So, you screwed up. You went overbudget on your restaurant budget because your friends were in town. Don’t use that as an excuse to buy that $500 television you’ve been eyeing. Don’t crash and burn and binge spend for the rest of the month, promising you’ll start fresh with next month’s budget.
Just move on. Overspending by $100 here and there is not a big deal in the grand scheme of your goals. But overspending by thousands? Recovering from a mistake that big will take time.
In the end, it was checking my bank balances every day that made me lose my money motivation. Once I realized and corrected my mistake, I was able to get my whole car loan paid off in one year – just like I’d planned. If you find yourself losing your motivation to achieve your money goals, the tactics above can help you get back on the right track.
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Photo by Asdrubal luna