About a month ago, I read an old friend’s post on Facebook. A few weeks went by, and I was still thinking about it.

Here’s the gist of that post (shared with permission):

 

“In February, my husband and I decided to concentrate our efforts and pay off our car loan (25 payments) early! Today, I got to write the check and stick it in the mail. It’s been such a good experience to do this with the boys. We’ve all been working together to make it happen. Each of them sacrificed something. I’ve been so proud of them whenever they were tempted to complain about so much “homemade” food, no allowance, or cutting back on extracurricular activities. Each time I was tempted to spend our little nest egg, justifying that we couldn’t really save up that much, I’d look at this sign and remind myself that my kids were working alongside us to make this happen. Of course they weren’t going to let us off the hook with Lagoon (a local amusement park) on the line!

Here are some of the important things to recognize and learn from this example:

 

  • This was a BIG goal. Paying your car loan off early could mean a payment or two, but in this case they decided to pay it off 25 months early.
  • This wasn’t about eating out less a couple of times. It was about making sacrifices. They had to sacrifice some immediate wants for longer-term rewards. (I’m sure their future selves are glad they did.)
  • I think it’s also important to point out that this family has six kids! It’s a good reminder that whatever your current life situation looks like, there are probably areas where you can make financial improvements. If you want to pay down debt more quickly, you can!
  • They gave themselves a deadline. In order to meet it, they had to determine what steps were necessary to save enough to pay off their car loan completely by that date. It’s harder to makes excuses when you say you want to pay off your loan “by May 2017” as opposed to “as early as possible.”
  • They also got their children involved. I could go on and on about why I think this is a good idea (teaching lessons about sacrifice, delayed gratification, the value of money, budgeting, etc.). Additionally, it provides accountability – and you don’t need kids to get it. Get your spouse, a friend, even me involved. If you need some accountability, find it! (You can read about the Let Luc Finance reader who emailed me regularly with updates on her student loan progress and quickly paid them off.)
  • Finally, they agreed to a family reward if they achieved their goal. I think rewarding ourselves is important. If you really want to tackle a financial goal AND treat yourself to something, tie the two together so you only get to treat yourself after that big goal is complete. In a world of instant gratification, learning to delay that in exchange for something bigger and better might be just what you need.

In summary, if you want to achieve a financial goal:

 

  1. Figure out where you stand today and where you want to be
  2. Determine what it will take to get there
  3. Give yourself a deadline
  4. Find some accountability
  5. Pick a reward that will motivate you – and can only be collected upon achieving your goal

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