For some people, goals alone aren’t compelling enough to motivate them, but beating someone else is. Some people just can’t run fast unless there is someone to run against. If you’ve identified that type of pride in yourself, there are ways to harness it to solve your debt problems and achieve your financial goals.
Some people have ready competitors right in their households – spouses and roommates, for example. People who can’t get behind a goal like “I’ll have an emergency fund of $500 and pay off $100 of principal by October” can often get behind something like “I’m going to pay off more debt than my husband this month” or “I’m going to contribute more to the emergency fund this week than my wife.”
This kind of thing can work even if the other person isn’t competing. It makes the goal more immediate, and thus more motivational. It also provides feelings of accomplishment more quickly.
Even if you don’t have a competitor on hand, you may be able to get motivated just to top your own performance. A lot of people find that “I paid off $28 last month; I’m going to do whatever it takes to pay off $29 this month,” has the same sort of addictive quality once offered by Pac-Man.
Other competitive people have found that the opponents that motivated them on most were the creditors themselves. If this helps you stay committed enough to make the sacrifices and do the hard work, that’s great. Use your pride to show them what you’ve got. Just be sure you don’t sound adversarial when you’re talking to your creditors on the phone.
What’s best about the competition goal approach is that, if nothing else, it helps people get off the floor faster and get back on their plan when they blow it. Competitors know that you can’t worry about the last play; you just have to go out and make the next one. If you just stay in the game long enough, something good will happen.
Cooperation can be just as strong a goal strategy as competition for the right person. Obviously, having families, couples, or friends help each other toward debt goals is important. A certified credit counselor can help you with that support. But cooperation can be more than just the best way to achieve goals for a family; cooperation can be part of the goals themselves.
You can divide a goal like “$300 worth of principal paid and enough money for a small vacation by July” into even smaller cooperation-based goals, such as
- “We’ll clip coupons together once a week.”
- “We’ll get up early enough to share a car ride twice a week.”
- “We’ll clean out a closet together every weekend and find something to sell.”
- “We’ll search for a cheaper apartment together.”
- “We’ll make all our Christmas presents together this year.”
- “We’ll pick out free movies from the library instead of going out.”
There are plenty of possibilities, depending on how bad the situation is. The point of this is that the cooperation gives the goals weight and makes them shared in action, not just in burden. Eventually, some people have found that working and being together becomes the important part or that the mutual activity makes things easier.
Whether you make working toward your goals a friendly competition or a team sport, the important thing to remember is that you can succeed if you stick with it. We’ve helped thousands of consumers achieve debt relief, attain financial literacy and manage their personal finances. We know from first-hand experience what is possible if people are truly committed to setting goals and working to achieve them.