Why I’m No Longer Making Long-Term Goals


Spending time watching her ballet class is more important than thinking about how much we’d save by not paying for class at all.

It wasn’t that long ago that I wrote a post outlining my (our) goal to pay off $70,000 in just 36 months. We’re actually in a position to keep on going with this plan too but I’ve now decided to stop. kind of. Let me explain.

Our main financial goal in life (right now) is to still work on this debt and get it paid off in a timely manner but as I’ve discovered in the last 16 months since writing that post, life fluctuates and plans have to change. Obviously this isn’t new news to me, but understanding the concept, and living the concept, are two different things. It’s taken me a few months but I’m finally ok with accepting that it is in fact ok to work on more than one goal in life.

When I wrote the post I was only focused on the end result, being non-mortgage debt free, and quite honestly I didn’t care, or take time to consider all of life’s circumstances that will happen within that 36 month period. Now that we’re almost half way through our 36 months, I can see we’re coming to a crossroads in the near future in terms of our finances and how we manage them.

We’re moving into a territory of working towards multiple goals at once. When I first realized that we’d be deviating from our plan I actually felt bad. Like I was failing someone and honestly, that’s just dumb. I also realized that, especially with a kid, life is easier to manage in short-term goals.

Some people thrive on focusing solely long-term goals, but, I have discovered, I am the opposite. Long term goals consume me and I don’t enjoy the associated stress. I find myself wishing time away which, to me anyway, is not ideal. I have never had a year (2015) go so fast in my life. While it was a culmination of things, a huge reason was that I wished the year away until November when I knew we’d be getting that loan paid off. Not a big deal to some, but I want to start living in a more present state.

When I started working on my 2016 budget last month, my goal was to complete it until December 2016. Just as I like to view a whole month calendar when planning anything, I like my budget done for 12 months minimum to see the numbers all laid out. I changed my mind though. I’m only doing my budget for no more than six months at a time.

When I was doing 12 months in advance there were simply too many unknowns. I would set an end of year goal, and fixate on it. I would play with the spreadsheet and see what, and how, the goal would happen but more often than not, it wouldn’t and I’d be left feeling crappy. I’d ‘predict’ a cost (say soccer fees or car appointment) only to find out it’s actually hundreds more than I anticipated and I’d let it ruin my whole budget.

Our income varies. My husband’s pay is pretty much set but my can be all over the place. If I took a day off work (unplanned, kid sick or storm day sort of thing, without pay) I was cashing out vacation pay to make sure I would have that income target I put in my spreadsheet, like nine months prior. This isn’t real life for me. We make enough money that if I miss a day or two unplanned, an unpaid day off won’t kill us, but because I had these large goals, I was sacrificing things like actual, necessary, vacation days with my family to meet our financial goals. I need more balance.

My only ‘goal’ of 2016 is to learn how to live more in the moment. Good and bad. 2016 is shaping up to be a great year. A real vacation. Milestone birthdays. A new baby in our close circle of friends. A family wedding (and all associated planning!). I don’t want to write a post in January of 2017 describing how I feel like I missed it all.

Even in over 700 words I feel like I can’t quite describe what I’m trying to say. We still have general long-term plans like eventually start investing but because we’re not yet in a position yet to do so I’m not going to allow myself to feel bad about not reaching a goal date.


  1. Kathy from CT says

    Did you read my mind? You put into words the uneasiness I have been feeling about long-term goals. I have become so fixated on them that I don’t enjoy the present. There is a balance out there, and it sounds like you have found yours. Now I just have to find mine. Thanks for the good post.

  2. I totally understand your position. When I started writing about learning to become debt-free it was always clear to me that I wanted to do it in a way that we made strong progress without driving ourselves nuts pinching every penny and making sure we were only spending on our debt. Over the last year, we doubled my initial debt-payoff goal because I didn’t feel the need to rebel against the plan since it left room for fun! We went on vacations, bought lots of gifts for Christmas, etc. without feeling like we were “failing” our goals or my blog readers. Sometimes, it’s nice to take a step back, repriotitize and make a different kind of plan for success! Good luck!

  3. I think it’s fine to set long term goals but you have to be realistic with your expectations. Things change that will affect your goals, whether they be things that you didn’t see coming (something that needs to be replaced, or a raise) or a change in priority along the way. I always set 12 month goals at the beginning of the year, but I do so understanding that it’s not going to work out like I planned. Ever. With that approach, it allows me to keep setting longer term goals. I wonder if after a year of no goals, maybe you’ll miss them, but will be able to loosen the expectations so that you’re not so disappointed when they don’t work out exactly as planned.

  4. I’m a spreadsheet-loving control freak married to a man with severe ADD — and both of us have chronic health conditions. Oh, and a house where everything is not-so-slowly breaking.

    So I eventually came to the same realization that you did: You can’t plan for life, and trying is the fastest road to insanity.

    I still have overarching goals, but I don’t stick to any one specific plan. Otherwise, the minute something goes wrong, I’m under the covers feeling hopeless. I *plan* to save as much as possible from each check. I *plan* to keep expenses down (junk food, etc) as much as possible. And when I’m very lucky, things go according to that plan.

  5. I completely get what you’re saying. I’m a parent trying to pay down debt, and there is a real balance between wanting to be very aggressive with the finances and taking the more enjoyable middle road. We will be able to do more when we are debt free, but I am ok with shorter term goals and changing plans mid-stream as things change.

  6. God, life is full of unknowns. That’s why I haven’t committed to any concrete goals the past few years.

  7. Yes!! We don’t really have any 2016 goals either because we have so many unknowns this year. We will be moving this spring, but we don’t know where. That will have a HUGE effect on our budget. With that unknown alone it would be hard to set any real goals for this year as a whole.

    • Exactly…though you’re life is probably a little more unstable than ours, we’re also starting to try and figure out how we plan on moving in 24-30 months/come up with money required and pay off debt.

  8. I have long-term and short-term goals. I understand your position on this. But, I think it’s better to have long-term ones as it is more fulfilling once it has been achieved. And, I think it’s one way of motivation one way or another because all these short-term goals would lead to long-term ones.


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