Make Yourself Accountable

Everybody knows the reputation New Year’s resolutions get for being abandoned in under a month.  Following through with your saving and budget goals can be difficult.   There are thousands of strategies for keeping your resolutions, but I’ve found that the best goal-keeping mechanism is to make yourself accountable.    There are several ways to accomplish this.

Make Firm Goals. If your goals are open to interpretation, it’s easy to interpret them in a way that lets you off the hook.  Make the goals concrete and immune to interpretation, and that can’t happen.  “Get up earlier” may mean five minutes, which is technically meeting the goal, but not really.  “Get up at 5am” is clear and concrete.

Get a “Goal Buddy”. When I am out shopping, if I’m struck by the impulse to buy something I probably don’t need, I call my wife.  She’s more than happy to encourage me to put the movie or game back on the shelf.   I have a friend who will call me up if he’s thinking about buying a new gadget so I can talk him down.  Friends don’t let friends mortgage their futures.

Go Public. As you may have noticed, I’m being as open as possible with my goals for the year.   I have laid out clear goals and I provide fairly frequent updates through both this site and twitter.  If I fail, I fail in front of an audience.  That’s strong encouragement to succeed.  Tell your family, friends and coworkers.  Announce your goals on the internet.   Make it as difficult as possible to fail gracefully.

Punish Yourself. I have a line item in my budget called “In the hole“.   If I go over budget one month, the overage is entered as an expense the following month.   This serves the double purpose of getting the budget back on track and forcing me to sacrifice something the next month to make that happen.    Another option may be to write out a check to a charity you hate, and drop it in the mail if you miss your goal.  Anything unpleasant can work as your punishment.

How do you keep your goals?

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    1. My hubby and I also call one another to keep ourselves on track. I also post our goals on every blog so I can to keep them on my mind (early retirement at age 52 and paying off our house by 35). We are currently 26 and 27, so we have a while to go…

      We are both natural savers anyway, so we don’t punish ourselves when we splurge. We do give ourselves a $75 monthly “allowance” which is usually more than enough to keep us happy along with our regular “luxury expenses” (cable, maid service, lawn service, and a small monthly contribution to our Vacation account).

      Lately our main entertainment has been board gaming with friends…cheap hobbies* are great.

      *Board gaming is only cheap if you don’t personally buy all the games…we all combine what we have and it turns out well.

    2. We’re natural spenders. I switched when we found out we were having baby #3. I worked out our budget and immediately quit smoking. Everything else came from that start.

      I’m planning to have the mortgage gone before I’m 35, too. I’m 31 now and on pace to hit the goal.

    3. Have you posted how much debt y’all are paying off, other than the mortgage? I only read back as far as December 2009 and called it an evening…

      We wouldn’t be as far along as we are financially if our parents hadn’t helped. My parents covered my first year of college, $8000 of the rest, and bought $2200 of our appliances as a house warming gift (our foreclosure had nothing…not even an oven or dishwasher).

      My husband’s parents paid for all 4 years of his college education and gave him the rest of his college fund afterwards ($19,000). We used that and some of our own savings 3 years ago to put 20% down on our house and to cover the closing fees.

      Without all of that help, we would have had to wait 2 more years to buy our house or my husband would have had to wait to go to graduate school…he’s finishing this summer and we’re throwing that money ($650 a month) into another Roth IRA and saving for a downpayment on a rental property. We plan to have our house paid off by 2017 and the rental paid off by 2022.

      Honestly, our best way of saving the quickest would be for me to get a better paying job, but I’m not motivated enough to move on right now. It only pays $35,000 a year, but it has free life, medical, dental, and vision insurance, 6% matching on the 401k, never needs more than 40 hours a week, allows me a few hours of free time while at work (when we’re not busy), 30 minutes away from the house, and I’m really good at what I do. My supervisors love me. Even though I could probably make more elsewhere, I’ve gotten complacent.

      Anyway, we’re still hitting all our big goals making a combined $78,000 a year, but I keep hearing my parents’ voices, “You’re not living up to your full potential.” Blech…I think I put a higher value on not having to work 60 hour weeks than they do…but I’m also not very motivated.

    4. I haven’t posted our total debt. As of a couple of weeks ago, it was about $40,000, without the mortgage. That’s a bit painful.

    5. Painful yes, but totally doable (as you know). Based on how you seem to stick to goals, you and your wife will be debt free before you know it!

      If it might make you feel a little better, Adam and his wife over at are tackling a little more than $150,000 in non-mortgage debt.

      I’m just happy for all of you. Being debt free is awesome and your blogs are really fun to read! Kudos and thanks!

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