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what motivates you financially?

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Lots of people suggest that the best way to motivate yourself is to have a big goal. You know, like a house that you want to buy, or a vacation that you want to take. You’re supposed to picture yourself doing it and then ask whether you want the house/vacation/whatever more than the pair of shoes in the window, or the meal out.

I’m not sure why, but that’s never worked for me.


The thing about saving towards a goal is that it needs to be of a certain size. One that is neither too easy, nor too hard. It also has to be something that you really want.

I’d love to travel overland from London to Singapore over 4-6 months. I reckon it would cost me in the region of £7k-£10k plus expenses in the UK of around £3k-£5k. Which is sort of doable if I really try singlemindedly for 3-5 years.

Only, I don’t want to give up my job, blog, house or oboe for 4-6 months. Nor do I want to cut back on the fun that I do have. I’d love to do it, but I don’t want it enough to sacrifice for as long as that.


I’m rubbish at this too. I’m not too bad at keeping to a generous budget, but if I have to really cut back a lot, I can’t keep it up for long. Like crash dieting, in the long run it seems to make things worse.

Mostly, I actually feel like I don’t have that much to sacrifice. I keep relatively well to an allowance, I don’t normally have a penchant for wild impulse buys. Undoubtedly my money leaks in small ways, but for me, right now, life is too short. As long as I spend less than I earn and save/invest the difference I’m ok.

the plonkee way?

I kind of half-heartedly motivate myself. I’m tired all the time. I really like everything that I do, it’s just that I spend too much time at work. In an ideal world, I’d only work 3 or 4 days a week.

The plan (formulated a year ago, more or less) is to maintain my income at around the level it currently is (inflation adjusted) and get payrises/promotions at work until I’m in a position to be able to only work 4 days a week.

This means being happy with the amount that I currently live on as a more or less permanent thing. So, I need to make sure that I spend (within my budget) on the things that I want to do because I’m not all that likely to find a magic way to afford them in the future either.

It means working for a promotion. (Another one). I’m earning around 15% less than I need to be to make the 4 day week thing work.

It’s a goal of sorts, but the whole point for me is that it isn’t one that I need to wave in front of myself to stop me buying. It’s got to be much, much more integrated than that. It means being happy with now and not waiting for the future, because the future’s going to look much the same but with more sleep and fun stuff.

It means working out how to live my ideal life with the budget I have now. Since travel is important to me, I’m taking regular budget trips abroad. I’m going to comedy clubs, meeting friends for drinks, and wearing clothes that suit me.

Now, is just as important as the future. That’s what motivates me.

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31 comments for “what motivates you financially?”

  1. I have to have goals in order to keep motivated, but they have to be quite short term (around a year or less), otherwise I lose motivation. Right now it’s our wedding in four months. After that, who knows? Maybe I’ll fall off the frugal wagon for a while while I find a new goal. :)

    Posted by FruGal | October 30, 2008, 5:47 pm
  2. I find goals to be useful, but I actually prefer more nebulous ones that are less goals and more intentions(unless we’re talking short-term). I also think it helps to distinguish between what we want and what sounds like it would fun/cool. I think we find ways to make the things we want work out, as it sounds like you’re doing with the 4-day work week thing. The things that just sound vaguely fun we never really get into the nitty gritty of. Those tend to stay in the realm of the theoretical (like the overland trip).

    Posted by deepali | October 30, 2008, 9:53 pm
  3. I’m not good with specific goals- I just know that I want to cut down my hours (3-4 days) and eventually move somewhere rural and work even less; ergo I need to save money and learn to live cheaply.

    Posted by Looby | October 31, 2008, 2:45 am
  4. Hi there-Just found your blog and read this post, which is great!! I’m similiar minded in that I’m quite happy as I’m living-I work part time and can afford to live on a low income, thankfully. So, apart from sticking to my budget and paying down my debt, I really don’t have any goals as such-I’m quite happy to poodle on as I am!

    Posted by sharon rose | November 1, 2008, 3:41 pm
  5. I don’t really have any short term financial goals. I pretty much have everything that I want / need. What drives me is the long term goal of financial security and not having to worry about job security and such.

    Posted by Shadox | November 1, 2008, 6:16 pm
  6. Long-term goals tend to depress me and make me feel like a failure. So I’ve been trying to frame them in terms of “direction” and sticking to short-term goals. Even then, it’s less about setting goals and more about sticking to what I think is the best financial course.

    Posted by Mrs. Micah | November 2, 2008, 1:39 am
  7. What motivates me? a big mortgage. tThe other thing that motivates me is that I dont like working i would rather be sailing my boat. So I need to work hard retire early and go sailing.

    Posted by Mortgage Advisor | November 2, 2008, 7:13 am
  8. Being the primary earner in my household, my priority is making sure my better half is completely covered and educated in the case of my untimely demise. Other than that, I’m one of those strange women motivated financially by fear of going totally bust too. Pretty negative, eh?!

    Posted by guinness416 | November 2, 2008, 2:18 pm
  9. My short to medium term goal is to pay off every cent that I owe to my credit card masters ($20kish) and save up enough money to purchase a nice home.

    Nice being something I like, not a McMansion that’ll mean 80 percent of my income goes toward its mortgage.

    Beyond that, I don’t think I’m terribly concerned with anything else. But my goals typically are few at any given time. I think it gives me focus, which helps me keep them in the front of my mind.

    Posted by ed | November 2, 2008, 3:26 pm
  10. You and I are alike!

    I have goals, but I find it so difficult to make sacrifices to meet them. BUT I find it is getting easier over time.

    Posted by Sammy | November 2, 2008, 6:05 pm
  11. What motivates me financially is fear. Raw fear.

    Fear of not having enough to eat, fear of not having health insurance, fear of not being able to pay my property taxes, fear of not being able to keep a functional roof over my head.

    That translates into one single goal: to have enough in savings to see me through old age without landing in the poorhouse. Or, since my country’s leadership has abdicated most safety nets for its citizens, without having to live under the 7th Avenue Overpass.

    Posted by Funny about Money | November 3, 2008, 12:59 am
  12. @Funny about Money:
    I appreciate the fear thing and I’m really hoping that we don’t reintroduce Dickensian poorhouses in the UK.

    Posted by plonkee | November 3, 2008, 4:43 pm
  13. A brilliant post! It seems like all too often we talk about budgeting and saving for a future that we think we might have. It makes more sense to me to live within your means, with a little room for the fun stuff so that you can enjoy the ride to said future.

    I actually have been grappling with similar problems in my own financial life. It’s nice to hear about other people who have trouble saving all the time …

    Posted by Maggie | November 3, 2008, 8:22 pm
  14. We always have to have this certain spirit to keep on heading on our aims! :D

    Posted by Air Jordans | November 8, 2008, 12:47 am
  15. I’ve written about setting a sensible goal over on my site (I won’t put in URL spam, but you can click on my name and then on ‘Best Of’ and look for the post about ‘the number one number’).

    What it boils down to is you have to have a goal that you can control. There’s no point setting goals outside your ability to affect change. If you like your job and want to keep doing it, say, there’s no point setting a goal that will compromise that position - even if every online motivational coach is telling you your a sucker to work.

    A classic example are financial blogs that track net worth. Generally, people want to retire and/or be free to do what they want. It doesn’t matter if they have £250,000 in their portfolio or £1million, if that sum when they retire is enough to generate a reasonable income. What they really should be tracking is the income generated by their portfolio, which typically fluctuates a lot less and is more under their control than the value the market puts on it.

    In your case, you seem in my humble opinion to be burning out from the past few posts. Perhaps you need to stand back a bit? You say, for instance, that you want to travel. Could you combine work and travel, to reduce the money you need? Or do you think you want to travel, but really you want a time out? Maybe you could volunteer somewhere for six months.

    Just a few ideas, hope I haven’t stepped on any toes - and good luck!

    Posted by Monevator | November 9, 2008, 5:58 pm
  16. Simple answer - I like to eat, live under a roof, turn up my heat as high as I want to and I want to shop.

    Posted by Air Jordans | December 8, 2008, 3:26 am
  17. goals are important thing for people

    Posted by ???? | July 6, 2009, 4:43 am
  18. Hi I am new to your blog. Liked it. done well. I think we always have to have this certain spirit to keep reaching our aims!

    Posted by Payday Loans UK | July 14, 2009, 3:34 am
  19. I keep my goals posted in front of me at my desk and look up at them daily. I have a savings goal every month for my dream trip to Paris. This keeps me motivated. I pick one thing that I spend money on an allow myself to have it..even if it isn’t a necessity (weekly). This way, I don’t feel like I am depriving myself. I hate that feeling. Plus, it deflects money!

    Posted by ParisGirl111 | February 16, 2010, 3:43 pm
  20. As I near retirement, my major focus is to be in a position to live comfortably and play golf everyday if I like. All of my financial planning is targeted towards that. Of course, playing everyday probably will not be an option, so what I want to do is to establish a foundation that will continue to help others after I’m gone. Therefore, my additional available time will be spent seeking funding for that project.

    Posted by Lillie | February 23, 2010, 2:20 pm
  21. I think you must have a goal, you must want something , a car, early retirement, something. Otherwise you are just trying to obtain money to live or for its own sake, both of which provide no motivation

    Posted by Ed Lending | May 7, 2010, 1:57 pm
  22. It does not work for me too.. I am the kind of person who just goes by the feel of the moment.. It does help in one way as in it motivates me to keep experimenting with some enterprises so that I keep paying for what I desire..

    Posted by Instant Payday | May 10, 2010, 7:42 pm
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  29. Having a goal is what helps us succeed in life. If you go through your life without having a goal you will never feel satisfied and it’s like having no direction when driving. At one point you will bump into something and you are going to get hurt.

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