Paying off debt and getting in good financial shape is hard work, Grownups. Blogger Bridget Casey recommends some strategies for taking breaks and maintaining momentum.
When it comes to paying off debt, saving for retirement, and investing in the stock market, it’s easy to get tired of the drudgery of saving a few hundred dollars each month and barely seeing your account balances moving. If you’ve been diligently working towards your financial goals for months (or years) but feel like you’re hardly making any headway, chances are you’re suffering from financial fatigue.
If you start burning out from paying off debt or saving, it’s easy to become frustrated and break from your routine just to get some relief. Sometimes this manifests itself as buying something (or many things) you can’t afford—and using your credit cards or draining your savings in order to do so, effectively undoing all your hard work! To avoid resorting to bad financial behavior and give yourself a break from a strict money routine, it’s important to beat financial fatigue before it strikes.
Change up Your Goals
The easiest way to breathe new life into your financial tasks is to update your goals. If you’ve been focusing on debt repayment and feel like your retirement savings is being neglected, or vice versa, switch it up for three or six months. Sometimes all it takes to make you feel like you’re making progress is to watch the balance grow in an account you’ve put on the backburner for a while.
Taking a critical look at your goals and playing with the numbers might reveal you can meet some of your financial dreams sooner with simple tweaks. Maybe you’ll be getting a bonus or a tax refund in the near future. Look where you can put it to work so it will create the biggest change in your net worth.
Take a Break
It might seem counterintuitive, but taking a month off from an aggressive savings or debt repayment plan can give you a much-needed break. Consider loosening your tight budget by only making the minimum payments to your debts or only contributing half the normal amount to your savings account. Use the extra cash to treat yourself to something that didn’t quite make your “necessities” list, but will make a big difference to your day-to-day life, like some new shoes for work or some affordable new pieces of home decor. Try to find a splurge that’s enough of a treat to give you a sense of relief or accomplishment, but one that isn’t quite frivolous enough to make you regret it later.
The most important thing is only that you stay firm: One month is only one month! Don’t get so giddy about the new spending power in your budget that you decide to skip out on saving or debt repayments again. Taking a break for one month every year or two is fine, but if you do it for longer you’re falling into bad habits that will be very hard to break.
Celebrate Your Progress
If you’ve recently hit a major milestone like reducing your debt balance by $5,000 or saving your first $10,000 for a house down payment, find a way to pat yourself on the back! Celebrating a financial milestone acknowledges the work and discipline it took to hit such an achievement. You can celebrate by splurging on a dinner out or treating yourself in another way that feels special to you. To give you more motivation to keep going on your financial journey, identify future milestones, like becoming debt-free on your credit cards or saving $3,000 for emergencies, and plan ways to celebrate when you meet those future goals. This will give you two things to look forward to: your goal itself and the reward you give yourself for meeting it.
Financial fatigue feels just like working too many months without a vacation or sticking to a diet that never allows for a cheat day. It’s too restrictive to be a long-term success! Your primary goal in getting your finances in order is not to feel deprived or broke. In fact, the point is to feel the exact opposite of that. Make room in your budget to occasionally break from your routine or switch things up without causing you more financial distress. This will keep you motivated and avoid falling off the wagon in the future!
Bridget Casey writes for MoneyAfterGraduation.com.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner