A few weeks back I talked about attempting one of my financial goals. The goal seemed simple enough, keep my discretionary spending to under $100 a month. Well I’m here to say that I failed that goal miserably. I blew through that $100 dollars in less than 10 days and am now on my second $100 allotment. So I had to ask myself what should people do if they’ve failed a goal? They certainly shouldn’t give up but rather take additional steps so that they are successful in the future:
- What were you successful at – No matter how badly you performed at your goal you should always find something positive that you accomplished. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify these small successes because people tend to only focus on the overall failure of the goal. This can be demoralizing so look closely, you’ll find a positive accomplishment that you can use to build on to achieve the entire goal.
- What caused you to fail – This may seem straight forward but it’s not. Don’t focus on the failure as a whole but break them down into specifics. Identify the individual causes and take steps to rectify them. Just make sure you don’t chalk up these issues as a “one time thing” because you are setting yourself up for continuous failure. It’s like a smoker who tries to quit but still smokes on special occasions. First it’s just New Years and before they know it after dinner becomes a “special occasion”. Things will always happen so identify them and work them into achieving your goals.
- Is this goal still achievable – Sometimes when we set goals we aren’t aware of all the obstacles that can cause us to fail. Failing it once makes us wiser so take advantage of your new found wisdom and run this goal through SMART again. You may discover that the goal was too big to begin with and will have to be changed all together.
- Approach the goal differently– If you feel that the goal is still achievable but you are having problems making it mesh well with your life style then take a different approach. This can mean setting mini goals or arranging your schedule so it lines up with goal requirements better.
Now applying this to my goal of keeping discretionary spending under $100 a month…
- I successfully brought my lunch to work nearly every day except one. I need to apply this sort of discipline to other parts of my spending.
- I failed this goal for two reasons: 1) buying coffee (this is drinking coffee throughout the day and not just in the morning) and 2) going out with friends for birthday week. These were concerns when I first made this goal and apparently I was correct. I’ve been struggling with the coffee issue for some time and just lack the motivation to resolve it. That’s why next week when I go into work I’ll be bringing my french press in hopes I can make a cup of coffee I’ll enjoy. Birthday week is no excuse as well because there is always another event around the corner. I need to account for these days ahead of time.
- Looking at this goal I still consider it S.MA.R.T approved.
- Specific – Control my discretionary spending
- Measurable – Only spend $100
- Achievable – Since my budget includes things like dinning out and entertainment I shouldn’t need to spend more than a $100 making it achievable.
- Realistic – Yes it is realistic for the same reason it is achievable.
- Timely – It’s one month long which seem to be the total length of my spending cycle.
- Taking out $100 at the beginning of the month and walking around with it isn’t working for me. I also need to take into account that I will be going out with my friends at least once a month. So going forward I will allocate $40 a month for outings with friends. Then each week I will only walk around with $15 dollars. If I spend it then that’s it. There you have it, the goal is still the same I’m just attacking it from another direction.
I’m curious to know how you dealt with failed goals?