When I first started out on my journey to long-term financial security, I was filled with ambition, hope, and not a small amount of naivete. Visions of an early retirement and world travel danced through my head as I enthusiastically downloaded budget trackers and investment apps. Financial independence, here I come!
And then…reality set in. Those lofty financial goals I set for myself? Easier said than done. Like so many well-intentioned planners before me, I utterly failed at keeping up with my elaborate budget spreadsheet after month one (turns out I spend way more money on takeout than I realized) and getting motivated to cook at home every night was a struggle. My robo-advisor app gathered virtual dust as I found excuse after excuse to put off funding my IRA for “just one more paycheck.”
It was almost comical how quickly my motivation cratered. Turns out old habits die hard, and every morning my motivated money-saving self did battle with my inner spontaneity-loving spendthrift. More often than not, Spendthrift Susan won, gleefully shelling out for spur-of-the-moment Ubers and concert tickets without a second thought.
After a few months teetering between responsible saver and freewheeling spender, I realized my approach needed some serious adjustments if my long-term goals were ever going to materialize. Here are three key shifts that helped me get back on track:
- Set mini milestones – One big reason my motivation wavered was that my goals felt too abstract and far-off. It was hard for Last-Week-Me to care about Old-Lady-Me’s retirement. Creating little savings milemarkers along the way provided a sense of progress to keep me feeling encouraged.
- Allow some flexibility – Trying to stick to an overly rigid budget made me feel too restricted too quickly. Allocating some no-guilt fun money each month for guilt-free impulse purchases scratched the spontenaiety itch without completely sabotaging my progress.
- Hold myself accountable – Enlisting my partner to act as a financial ally provided welcomed external accountability when my own started to waver. Agreeing to weekly money check-ins helped me course correct spending before it veered too off track.
Learning to balance planning for the future me without depriving my present self too much has been a constant work in progress. But taking the pressure off making every month perfectly optimized has made it feel more sustainable long-term. Years from now, I know I’ll thank Past-Me for sticking it out. Our retirement dreams of beachside mai tais still await! When the battle rages within between responsible saver and spontaneous spender, progress can still inch forward, even if the road is windy. The journey may take longer than my enthusiastic beginner self envisioned, but forward is forward. One small milestone at a time, the future awaits.