Debt Reduction

How To Deal When You Set A Goal But Come Up Short

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve been blogging about debt reduction for more than 5 years.  In all that time, there are two dates that really stick out for me:

The first date is a fun date to remember – February 6, 2006 – the day that I paid off all of my debt, was one of the most awesome days of my life.

The second date is… not… so… fun… to remember – October 7, 2005 – the day I realized that I would not reach my original goal of paying off all of my debt by October 10, 2005.

Despite the somewhat “cheery” tone of the post that I wrote that day, I was bummed.  In fact, it took me several days to get over the disappointment – and a few weeks before I really felt like focusing on debt reduction again.

As someone who has “been there and done that”, I thought it might be helpful for me to share some thoughts on goal-setting – and what to do if you come up short and miss your goal-date.

1.  Put things into proper perspective and celebrate what you have already achieved.  In my case, in less than 180 days, I paid off a little more than $8000.  Looking back, that’s pretty impressive, especially considering the fact that I paid off not one, but two automobile loans.  In less than 7 months, I paid off 70% of my debt.  Do the math and see where you are.  You might be surprised by the progress you’ve made.

2.  Examine your goal-date and determine if it was realistic.  My original goal-date was a little pie-in-the-sky, and was dependent upon everything going according to plan.  Life happens and we all have to deal with setbacks.

3.  Take another look at your financial setup – your budget, your expenses, your income – and create a new, realistic goal-date.  This was so important for me.  I looked back at the progress that I had made, at roughly 10% per month, and created a new goal-date.  In fact, failing to reach the first date actually helped me reach the second, improved one.  Change those things which might need to be changed, and look for opportunities to improve in your financial setup.

4.  Think long-term – in years, not months.  I can remember thinking, “I’ll never get this debt paid off”.  I’ve been debt free for more than four years, and missing my goal by a few months hasn’t been detrimental.  Do the work, get out of debt, and then prepare for a life-time of reaping the rewards.

5.  Get re-inspired.  For me, my greatest inspiration comes from my readers, my fellow writers – and listening to folks like Dave Ramsey talk about debt reduction.  Use this temporary setback to get fired-up, again!  (Now would be a good time to shamelessly plug my site, encouraging you to subscribe to the site via email or rss – and follow me on  I’ll do my best to keep us all fired-up and excited about being debt free!)

Getting out of debt was the smartest financial decision I’ve ever made.  Pressing forward, despite setbacks, was the key.

3 thoughts on “How To Deal When You Set A Goal But Come Up Short

  1. I remember the day you paid off your debt too — that was awesome! It’s good to hear now about how you got through the setbacks and took a realistic look at what you’d actually accomplished despite missing the target date.

  2. This is PERFECT advice. It’s silly to think that a long-term goal is going to happen exactly the way you planned it. By even HAVING a plan you’re miles ahead of most, and by closely sticking to it you’re well on your way. Of COURSE you’ll stumble or have things come up along the way, so you’re absolutely right to celebrate past successes and see how far you’ve come.

    What’s that quote, “Aim for the stars, that way even if you miss you can still hit the moon” (something like that?).

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