I have a confession to make about my money goals, and in a way, about this blog.
I’ve been blogging for almost 18 months about something that doesn’t even exist.
See, for the longest time, I thought that “money goals” were a thing, which is why I wrote so much about my goal to save half my income.
But here’s what I’ve very recently realized: it was never about saving 50% of my money.
I realized this because in the past few months – as you’ll know if you’re on my email list– I’ve been very consistently saving over half my income since September.
I even pushed past what I thought was my goal, and topped a 60% savings rate one month this fall. That’s still ludicrous to me, especially since it took me so long to hit my 50% number for the first time.
But when I started hitting my goal consistently, the weirdest thing happened.
Instead of feeling super accomplished, and like I could check a big, huge win off my list of goals, I felt… well, not much.
It was kind of like OK, that keeps happening, cool.
I guess I’ll just keep living my life.
So I dug into that experience. Why wasn’t I more excited about finally hitting this goal, especially after building an entire blog and “financial plan” around it?
Well, it turns out money goals don’t exist
The reason I didn’t feel excited about finally – finally – hitting my savings goal was that it was never my real goal.
That whole “save half my income goal” I thought I had? Yeah, it wasn’t real.
My real goals were actually…
- Be a responsible dog owner, and have the ability to cover any emergency care The Dog might need.
- Contribute half of a down payment on a house, and be able to put down 10%, with my partner by the spring of 2017.
- Make sure that I’m covered if anything happened that meant I wasn’t earning income for a while.
- Have the flexibility and means to do things like travel for family weddings and donate to my favourite dog rescue when they need extra support.
- Buy a king sized bed, because I’m a luxurious monster. (Hey, the other ones were so responsible, ok? Let me have this.)
Those goals were the “why” behind my admittedly aggressive savings rate. The savings itself was just the “how” – which is why it never seemed all that exciting to hit that 50% number.
You know what was exciting, and hugely rewarding?
Achieving my real goals
Finally having a fully-funded emergency fund for The Dog, so that if he does something goofy that results in an unexpected trip to the vet, I know I can afford to have him treated without having to tap into my other savings accounts.
Being able to take a 10-day vacation to the Rocky Mountains to celebrate a family wedding, without worrying about the cost.
Sending extra money to a local dog rescue a few different times this year when I knew they had taken in a lot of dogs who were running out of time.
Achieving my real goals was always an awesome experience.
But saving half my income?
Enh. It’s just the “how”.
Don’t get me wrong, the “how” matters a lot
Now, this is in no way me throwing in the towel on writing about money, because literally none of those aforementioned amazing experiences would ever, ever have been possible without money.
Sure, saving half of my income wasn’t my real goal, but it is the real reason I was able to do all those things I wanted to do.
It’s also why I’m on track to do the rest of them, so don’t worry: I’m still on the save-half-my-income train. I’m just much more clear on what it is, and what it isn’t. It’s a great tactic to reach my goals – like, hella great – but it’s not the end goal.
And as much as I’m not the queen of frugality, and as staunchly as I’ll defend spending money on fun, it does take a certain amount of know-how and prioritization to save half your income.
- You need to be aware of how much you’re spending, and on what.
- You need to make the hard choices to prioritize spending money on the things you value, and not spending money on things you don’t.
- You need to make sure your money isn’t being wasted on pointless subscriptions or useless bank fees.
There’s a whole lot of “how” that goes into making your goals a reality. Money is just one part of that – albeit an important part.
But your “how” will never be your “why”
And figuring out what you value? What your “why” is? That’s the tough part.
It takes time, and trying things, and making wrong choices, and course-correcting like a boss, even when you thought you had already learned that lesson, dammit.
Once you know what you really want, that’s your goal.
The money stuff is all just “how”.
And while it’s important, and a key part of the puzzle, it’ll never be your “why”. And since it’ll never be your “why”, it’ll never be enough on its own.
That’s why it’s so notoriously tough to set a goal to “save more money” and just… never achieve it.
It’s not your fault!
It’s just that “save more money” isn’t a goal.
Even “saving 50% of your income” isn’t a goal (my bad!). That’s why, on its own, it’ll never work. It’ll never be enough to make you prioritize saving over all of the other things you (rightfully) want to do with your money.
Saving 50% of your income to build a stable life in the neighbourhood you want, even if your dog breaks his leg? That’s a reason to choose to make more coffee at home (but still buy lattes because you’re kind of obsessed with them).
So as we head into the new year, can we just agree to strike “save more money” and “spend less money” and all variations thereof off of our list of resolutions?
They’re not real goals.
And because they’re not tied to the things you really value, they’ll end up left in the pile of resolutions you didn’t complete this year.
Putting them in that pile would be a huge shame, too, because as much as they aren’t goals in and of themselves, they’re still hella important things to do in order to achieve the things you want.
Money just isn’t a goal by itself.
Because there’s no such thing as a “money goal”.
PS. This is the last Half Banked post for 2016, as I take the next two weeks to plan for next year and drink copious amounts of eggnog. I’ll be sending one last weekly newsletter out on Saturday morning to my email list, which you can join right here. Otherwise, I’ll see you in 2017, friends!