How to Stay Motivated After Meeting a Goal

If you’ve ever reached a significant financial goal, congratulations! Maybe you saved an emergency fund, paid off a loan, or earned a promotion. Or you paid for a vacation or holiday gifts in cash. Feels great, doesn’t it?

But if you’re anything like us, you might find yourself floundering in the wake of your victory. The laser-focus that directed your progress can vanish once the finish line is behind you. Perhaps you loosened the reins on your spending, or even celebrated a bit too lavishly. Or rushed right into the next goal without recovery time, feeling burnt out and unmotivated. Here are some ideas for transitioning between goals successfully.

  1. Plan your celebration. Don’t let goal celebration week turn into month or quarter of pricey festivities. Choose one or two special ways to celebrate and determine approximately what they’ll cost. Dreaming about this reward ahead of time can be a great way to stay motivated. Of course, you can plan some free ways to mark the occasion, as well.
  2. Update your budget. Pull out that spreadsheet and update your numbers. We don’t fuss over a monthly budget much, but it’s important to plan for major changes to your income or expenses. Do so ahead of time if possible. Otherwise you stand the risk of letting that “extra” disappear if it’s unaccounted for. Updating your budget also lets you know exactly what you’re working with for your next goal.
  1. Set your next goal. I know it sounds obvious, but it can be hard to think past your current goal when you’ve got gazelle-like intensity. Or maybe you have too many goals in mind to choose from. Make a list, order them by importance, and record the dollar amounts each might require—total, and monthly. Refer back to your budget and decide which or how many goals to queue up.

After purchasing our home and paying off our student loans, we coasted for about a year without much financial direction. Fortunately we maintained the basics like saving, giving, and investing, but I wonder what we could have achieved with a clearer goal in mind.

  1. Expect some extra expenses. While pressing toward your goal, you may have deferred some spending. Maybe it’s home maintenance, a car repair, or replacing worn clothing or furniture. Saving for special purposes like your next vehicle or vacation may also need renewed attention. It’s fine to delay certain expenses until you meet your goal, but don’t be surprised if you have some catching up to do. Try listing these expenses before and/or after meeting your goal. Warning: catching up can be a let-down. Costs like replacing an old toilet or getting new tires can feel pretty boring after you’ve reached a lofty goal, but that’s just life. #adulting
  2. Give yourself some time off. This might sound dangerous, but you could feel defeated if your first couple months of extra income or lower expenses leaves you feeling broke. The cost of celebrating plus catching up on delayed spending can add up. That doesn’t mean you’re failing. If you need a month or two to recover before striving for the next finish line, go ahead! Just return to your routine spending habits after your recovery period and your budget will normalize.
  3. Remember what you’ve accomplished. The goal that once felt so significant might start to seem small in hindsight. Don’t take for granted that you accomplished something big for you. Be encouraged by your goal-setting success and let that spur you toward your next victory.

If you’ve already met a goal and are struggling to get your bearings, it’s not too late to take the steps above. Give yourself grace, remember your success, and get excited for your next goal. You can do it!

Have you ever lost motivation after reaching a goal? How did you get back on course?


38 Responses to “How to Stay Motivated After Meeting a Goal”

  1. Holly says :

    I recently wrote about this for a client – how do you stay motivated when you’re finally debt-free? For us, it’s about creating mini-goals and celebrating them. Great list of tips!

    • Kalie says :

      I think it’s especially easy for motivation to lag after meeting a debt payoff goal. Mini goals are a great idea.

  2. Tonya says :

    I think I have a harder time staying motivated when reaching a goal, not necessarily after the goal has been reached, although once I started my full time job it was harder to be frugal since I knew I didn’t have to be. But still wanted the discipline to save a lot of money. I constantly have to check in with my why on why I’m sacrificing pleasure now for future me!

    • Kalie says :

      That’s interesting about staying motivated before vs. after the goal. I think we’ve had a harder time after. I’m sure it depends on the goal and our personalities. Returning to the “why” is hugely motivating for us, too.

  3. Amanda says :

    This was a good reminder for me. We’ve had several changes to our regular monthly expenses lately, and some one-time irregular expenses, so I’m feeling a bit off. Plus we have a goal we haven’t started working on that needs some attention. On my list today – rework the numbers, plug the leaks and take one step toward the new goal. Thanks!

    • Kalie says :

      We’ve had a lot of irregular expenses too, which is part of why I needed to write this! Glad it could help you, too.

  4. Ms. Montana says :

    I am such a goal oriented person. As we plan out what life might look like after this year off, I know I need a few goals in there to keep me focused! And to be honest, happy. I’m just more content when I am working towards something.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, I like to know where I’m heading and why. I can “sacrifice” more or work harder if there’s a clear purpose.

  5. Josh says :

    Our big goal was finishing the construction of our house and moving in before Labor Day. We did it, but left a to-do list of small projects that can be completed with us living in here like caulking trim, touching up paint, etc.

    We have completed some of that, but, honestly we have been spending most of our time working on landscaping and we started preparing our garden plots this weekend before the winter temps arrive and while the evenings are still a little longer.

    • Kalie says :

      That is a big goal, and I’m sure it left lots of smaller projects in its wake. That’s awesome you reached your goal; it does make sense to take care of outdoor projects while it’s still warm.

  6. Mrs Need2Save says :

    What a nice dose of inspiration for the day! We keep some of our goals (both financial and otherwise) written on a write on/wipe off board in our office to keep us motivated.

    If we hit one, we usually replace it with a new one so there is something new to focus on. It’s a nice reminder for the times when you start thinking, “now why are we doing this?”

    • Kalie says :

      I like the whiteboard idea. I’ve heard it’s more effective to record your goals, though in the past ours have been clear-cut enough that we didn’t really need to.

  7. FullTimeFinance says :

    I try to tie my near term goals to overarching long term goals. Thankfully I’ve yet to find all my big goals completed. That may happen someday but some of them are decades off. I’m a largely goal oriented person so I have to make sure there is always a new one.

    • Kalie says :

      We probably need to break our next big goal into smaller chunks. It’s true that something too big isn’t terribly motivating.

  8. DC YAM says :

    Good point about planning your celebration. It can really get out of hand! It’s also important to move on. You can always be looking back at your last accomplishment without realizing that in the time you’ve been looking back you could have been moving ahead with a new accomplishment or accomplishments. I think this happens with a lot of people and is tough to avoid because it’s not always apparent.

    • Kalie says :

      Good point about looking behind instead of ahead–I think this is what happened after we purchased our home & paid off student loans. Luckily we recovered pretty quickly. I’ve also experienced downplaying a goal after reaching it, which I think is also dangerous. It’s good to remember you did it once, so you can do it again.

  9. Dividends Down Under says :

    The important thing to remember is that life goes on, whether we get to the goal or not 🙂

    Your point about coasting after buying a house is really true! A lot of our family just bought a house and then coasted for the next 20 years lol. It’s always important to have something to strive for (even if it’s small 🙂 ).


    • Kalie says :

      You’re right that missing a goal isn’t the end of the world, and sometimes it’s because you change your mind, or life throws something unexpected at you.

      That’s cool you’ve noticed the danger of coasting and can avoid it!

  10. Harmony says :

    Great point about taking care of some deferred expenses. We are working really hard to pay off the credit card debt, so I’m sure that there will be a little bit of catch up on things we’re putting off for now. But you just have to take it in stride and keep moving forward.

    • Kalie says :

      Yes, being mentally prepared to handle those delayed expenses will help you accept it after you reach that big goal. That’s great that it’s already on your radar.

  11. Emily says :

    I love the fact that recognizing and celebrating your accomplishment is such a big part of the process, as is giving yourself a little break afterwards. Once we paid off my car loan and student loan, we gave ourselves a bit of time. Then we ramped up the emergency fund to cover a couple of more months of expenses (which was a good idea..we needed it later.)

    • Kalie says :

      I’m glad to hear your time off helped you succeed at your next goal–and that is was such a wise and well-timed goal!

  12. Our Next Life says :

    Can you please invent a time machine and send this post to me circa 10 years ago? I definitely fell into this trap after paying off my consumer debt (student loans, car loan, credit cards) — the lack of next goal meant I went from a debt slaying machine to a baller spending machine. Granted, I have good memories from those high-spending years, so I wouldn’t necessarily trade them for something else, but if Mr. ONL and I had had bigger goals in mind sooner, we for sure would have gotten on the FI path a few years earlier!

    • Kalie says :

      I wonder if debt payoff is a particularly hard goal to transition from once you reach it. It’s so clear-cut and obvious once you set your sights on it, and other things like FI might not be. I’m glad you got on that track when you did–in plenty of time, I’d say.

  13. Brian says :

    After paying off our consumer debt, we intentionally took some time off to regroup and focus on our next goal. It was a good exercise to breath a bit and re-energize to get ready for the next task.

    • Kalie says :

      I’m glad to hear that some time off helped you prepare for the next goal. It’s easy to fear you’ll get off track, but if you’re focused overall, a little breather should help, not hurt.

  14. Mustard Seed Money says :

    When I paid of my mortgage I wish I did something to celebrate. For whatever reason it felt a little anti-climatic and we did nothing. Looking back I regret that because it was such a game changer for us.

    I also totally agree with setting new goals. After I paid off the mortgage I felt a little aimless as I didn’t know what to do next. I wish I had set up more than one goal of paying off the mortgage at the time.

    Now I have short term goals and long term goals so that I always have something to work towards.

    • Kalie says :

      Way to go on paying off your mortgage. It seems like debt payoff can be a tough goal to transition from. That’s great you’ve found a way to set big and smaller goals to keep yourself going.

  15. Laurie Frugal Farmer says :

    Love the time about planning the next goal right away, and also love the tip about taking some time off! I think a little break is important once in a while when it comes to goals. Great post!

  16. Latoya Femme Frugality says :

    Ooooh, this is a great topic and one that everyone should be ready to deal with afer financial victories. I likely would already have a list of other goals already so I know there wouldnt be too much of a lag of time for me. Great advice!

    • Kalie says :

      We hear so much about how to set and reach goals, but there is definitely an art to transitioning out of those achievements. A new set of goals definitely helps.

  17. Fruclassity (Ruth) says :

    Great topic! We often wonder what we’ll do in terms of finances after we’ve made that last mortgage payment (still 3 years away). There will be no shortage of mini-goals, so I’m hoping that will keep us on track.
    Deferred spending has a great advantage: It makes you realize you don’t need whatever it is you thought was so essential. We drive a 17-year old van, and my husband – who was always a new-car-buyer, has concluded that if our next vehicle is 7-years-old, it will still be new for us. “Normal” changes when spending is deferred.

    • Kalie says :

      Great point about delaying spending, Ruth. There are things you’ll need to catch up on, and others you’ll realize aren’t worth it at all. That’s huge that your husband has change his mind about a significant expense like cars.

  18. Ten Factorial Rocks (TFR) says :

    Hi Kalie, Good post. If you make your goal the ‘be all and end all’ objective, yes, then it is very difficult to stay motivated after achieving it. But if you see the goal as ongoing, and even after reaching FI/RE, you have something to look forward to, then the motivation remains strong in my view. For me, this little girl is one such motivation:

  19. Michael says :

    Hi Kalie,

    Nice post! This is my first visit to your blog. My goals are always a step towards my life size goal. So, when I do achieve my goal, I feel even more motivated to get to the next step towards my life size goal.


    • Kalie says :

      Yes, having that big goal in mind helps a lot. Though sometimes it’s a bit complicated to break down and sequence all the smaller goals. I guess that’s what this post is for 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *