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Swapping Out 4-Week Goals?

by J. Money on Monday, April 9, 2012

graffiti goal on van

Now that I’ve survived the “no sweets” mission for the past 40 days (a miracle!), I’m wondering if I should harness all that energy and willpower into another goal to keep it up?  All our habits form from egging them on over a certain amount of time, and the idea that I could still have a POSITIVE habit going on every new month is rather quite exciting!

And I’m not talking about “collecting” all the goals one on top of another either – that would be maddening (and a good recipe for just giving up altogether!).  But rather, taking on a brand NEW goal each month and sticking to it, only to move on from it the next month and pick up another goal in it’s place.  Kinda like short-term missions for the A.D.D. ;)

I got this idea from a fellow reader of this blog (Kurt @ Money Counselor), and here’s how he laid it out and inspired me:

Each week (or maybe each month–you choose), give up just one thing you spend money on regularly that’s unnecessary, a bit of a luxury or a vice or indulgence. Kinda like Lent. You’re only giving it up temporarily, for a short period, so it’s not too hard! And each period you choose something different, so you get your indulgence back soon. Less spending = more savings!

I love it!  And I bet you $10.00 that over time some of those things you give up end up fading away by accident too.  That’s what happened when I gave up shopping 4 years ago. I had no idea it would forever alter the way I spend money!  (I used to go to the mall or Best Buy or Target 5 times a week – mainly for fun. Now I go once a week, if that). Of course other things I gave up like sodas and cursing are still back in the game plan again, but if you’re constantly swapping out one vice for another, at least you’re not on 100% of the time,  ya know?  I think that’s what I like the most about this idea – it’s giving things up for the SHORT term to give you small wins and rewards.  And it’s hard to really burn out if you’re always switching it up every month too!

So I’m gonna give it a shot starting today, and replace my junk food omissions for not buying lottery tickets in April ;) Which will of course be hard as hell for me – I love those things! – but it’ll be a good thing to try out too. And then we’ll swap it out for a new one on the 1st of every month going forward. I think the hardest part will be coming up with new and different things to give up over time, since most of us only have a few major pain points we never seem to get rid of.

But maybe that’s okay too? There’s nothing saying you can’t do older goals too every now and then since it’s YOUR rules. Maybe you swap in lunch expenses one month, and then move to dinner expenses the next – and then right back to lunches again?  You’d always be giving up *something* relating to money (or health/relationships/etc), so the main point of you improving your life still remains the same the whole time.

I like this whole idea a LOT.  Short bursts of goals that always change at the first of the month :)  I’m totally going for it.  And maybe you should too!  What do you think about these shorter-term goals?  Think you could do them?  Or do you work better with longer, more permanent ones?  If you wanna give ‘em a go with me, let me know and we’ll all give it a shot together :)  It never hurts to have MORE motivation behind us!

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(Photo by Rob React)


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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 MikeTheRed April 9, 2012 at 7:26 am

I like this idea a lot. It’s an easy thing to couple with my general “Oh my god, I’ll be 30 in just over a week, I need to start kicking some bad habits” panic that has set in ;)

So, for the remainder of April (just for an easy cut-off), I’m going to cut out sodas (already down to just diet sodas) and energy drinks. If I’m thirsty I’ll drink water. If I need a pick-me-up, I’ll drink coffee.

Next month: No beer! (So many wasted calories there :-( )

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2 Frugal Fries April 9, 2012 at 7:33 am

They say it takes 21 days to learn a new habit, so your idea sounds right on target. I find I can stick to things for a month, but my motivation wavers after then. Maybe the trick is to pick something with a similar benefit and just keep changing it up every 21 days.

Something’s gotta stick, right?

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3 Yardwork April 9, 2012 at 7:41 am

I’m getting away from coffee myself. That and all sugared drinks in general. If any liquid passes my lips these days, its either unsweetened green tea, or straight up water. I know that coffee doesn’t have to be sweetened, but I just can’t stand it without a heavy dose of sugar and I’ve recently learned that crap WILL kill you if you really give it a chance to.

I’ m thinking short-term with the hopes that it will grow long-term (focus on going through *April* without it. Then focus on going through *May* without it).

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4 Michelle April 9, 2012 at 8:29 am

I need to do short-term goals. Long term is just not attainable for me.

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5 Kristin April 9, 2012 at 8:49 am

I like this idea, but I think it only works well with either activities or consumables. Otherwise, it’s just cost shifting. You could try not to go clothes shopping for awhile, say, as part of a no-spend challenge, but you’ll still have to buy socks and underwear at some point once it’s over. But I agree with you that focusing on something small for a limited period of time makes it much more manageable.

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6 marilyn April 9, 2012 at 8:58 am

I like the idea, overall I think you’d develop more mindfulness in your living.

When you give something up and then allow yourself to have it again, it’s a much bigger treat.

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7 lora kathleen April 9, 2012 at 9:15 am

I think it’s a great idea! I am a huge fan of small monthly goals/challenges/etc. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits advocates making one change per month and focusing all your energy on that one change. I’ve been trying that out the past several months and found it works surprisingly well… at least for me!

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8 Modest Money April 9, 2012 at 10:02 am

Very cool idea. I’m tempted to make a list of stuff to gradually give up to improve my life. Sweets would be near the top of the list for me. I just get sugar cravings way too much, especially chocolate. I do agree that we would just naturally give up some of those things long term after going without them for a month.

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9 Jen @ Master the Art of Saving April 9, 2012 at 10:36 am

It sounds interesting because there isn’t any long-term commitment. I’m just not seeing much of a financial benefit overall, which is okay—not everything has to be about money. ;-)

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10 Sarah April 9, 2012 at 10:44 am

Have you heard of saveup.com? It’s based off how other countries do the lottery. The banks want to encourage people to save, so every time you make a deposit, you get entered into a lottery.

It’s like mint, where they have access to see the balances in your account, and you get one credit for every dollar that’s saved. You can play 3 times in a day (10 credits each) or redeem 100 credits for up to 5 plays after that per day. They have a $2M lottery, and a bunch of other small prizes that you can instantly win.

It might satisfy your craving if you want to play the lottery but don’t want to spend money-it actually encourages you to keep saving! :)

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11 Meg April 9, 2012 at 11:20 am

Since you mention running out of ideas, why not have months where you add something in? Going to the gym or an extra day at the gym or working on a new hobby or seeing friends or something.

I suppose it isn’t really helping you save money, but it might be fun to add some new things in for a while. (Like trying different hobbies you’ve wanted to try but aren’t sure you’ll like.)

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12 Edward Antrobus April 9, 2012 at 11:39 am

Sounds like a great ideas, but my bad spending habits seem to rotate on their own. For a few weeks, I may be spending a lot of lunches, but then I’ll reach a point where I’m bored of 7-11 fare. Then my interest will move onto lotto tickets until I get frustrated with not winning, and move onto wasting money on something else.

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13 This Aggie Saves April 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Short term goals are always great, they give you quick turnaround times to manage yourself. Plus, like someone said above, it takes 21 days to form a habit. Goals and new habits go hand in hand.

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14 Matthew Doyle April 9, 2012 at 12:03 pm

This is a great idea. The best part about setting monthly goals is that you may eventually realize that you can live without certain things, which could save you even more money in the future. I also like the idea of things we are accustom to doing becoming more of a treat then a routine. I need to start thinking of goals. Thanks!!

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15 MyMoneyDesign April 9, 2012 at 12:35 pm

There is nothing wrong with taking on a few short term goals like this – especially in the name of self-improvement! If it’s going to lead to more money or a better lifestyle, I say go for it!

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16 Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager April 9, 2012 at 1:24 pm

Like you said, short term goals help change your habits. Right now I need to save money for the house. I think I could go 4 weeks without grabbing happy hour with friends. Thanks for the challenge.

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17 Cassie April 9, 2012 at 2:52 pm

I like the idea of swapping out your goals every month. You’re less likely to binge in response to being continually restricted, but you’re still doing it long enough to create a habit (3 weeks, right?). I think this is a great idea. Good luck with the no lottery tickets in April.

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18 Kurt @ Money Counselor April 9, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Hey J. Money, so pleased to read you’re trying out my idea and that you’ve given it a needed name: Goal-swapping Very good! Good luck, and please write about how it works for you.

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19 J. Money April 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm

@MikeTheRed – Woah, now the beer one would be hard! Although right now beer is the last thing on my mind after our bachelor party this weekend, haha… you can do it though! This month’s will be a nice test since it’s already shortened ;)
@Frugal Fries – Yeah, exactly. Not all habits are *bad* too, so if you can start doing more good habits over and over I can only assume your life will be a lot better :)
@Yardwork – YES! Go for it! And then when you figure out how to do away w/ coffee, let me know please, ok? I’m ADDICTED. But I just love the way it makes me feel!! :) (And freaky link btw, that’s scary!! I can’t drink it w/out sugar either.)
@Michelle – I know, so much harder right?
@Kristin – Yeah, and also you’re always giving up *some* amount of money no matter what you choose too, even if you switch back later. I think it mainly gets rid of the unnecessary stuff in the grand scheme of things.
@marilyn – Yeah! Like the Girl Scout cookies I just ate an hour ago :) 40 days without sweets and now I get to indulge! Haha… though I’ll admit they didn’t taste as good as I thought they would in my head… maybe I’ll eat less going forward?
@lora kathleen – YES! Love that book – it’s been by my bedside for a good 2 years now :) It’s the only one I’ve ever re-read!
@Modest Money – Oh yeah, for sure. And I’ve also noticed that when you *stop buying sweets* it’s a lot harder to eat too, haha… it sounds like a “d’uh” thing to realize, but it’s still just as true!
@Jen @ Master the Art of Saving – There is cuz you stop spending money on *someting* each month, even if you go back to it the next – so it’s temporary non-spending. And odds are you’ll start doing whatever habit you’re into less too after a while, which also makes you spend less ;) Though it def. depends on what, exactly, you’re giving up. I plan on going back to no cursing soon, which does nothing for my finances like you’re saying.
@Sarah – Yeah! I’ve actually used it I think, if it’s the same one that’s in my head? I gave up after a while just cuz it was another thing to pay attention to, but I def. like it in theory :) And I’m sure others would get a lot more out of it that’s not tied to the internet so much like I am.
@Meg – Yes, I like it! Maybe I’ll add in running for 15 mins since I can never get myself to do it ;) Though I do walk a lot, which I love… if I knew it was only for a few weeks though, I’d totally be more inclined to run with it(bah dum-ching!). Good call!
@Edward Antrobus – HAH! In that case, you need to start with a “no spend” month where you can only buy necessities ;) That’s what changed MY entire spending patterns! It’s been like 4 years now and I go shopping like 1/10th of what I used to – it’s awesome. Though my wardrobe def. needs some new stuff in there, haha…
@This Aggie Saves – Exactly! I’m thinking this is gonna be the start to something great :)
@Matthew Doyle – Yup! I just learned the world doesn’t end if I stop eating cookies or ice cream this month! Haha… and now that I can eat it again, I’m gonna see how MUCH I end up doing… something tells me I’ll only go back to eating a fraction of what I used to – I’ve been feeling good lately!
@MyMoneyDesign – I plan on it! Now you have to join us ;)
@Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager – Ooooh good one! Very hard, but very worth it – let me know how it goes if you end up doing it. I bet you end up just drinking at your house on the cheap instead ;)
@Cassie – Thanks! I almost slipped already this afternoon, haha… but then I remembered! What are YOU gonna give up? ;)
@Kurt @ Money Counselor – Yeah dude! Your idea is brilliant – I love it :) Will most def. keep people in the loop as I swap them out each time, thanks for the thoughtful comment last month! Hope all is well :)

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20 MoneySmartGuides April 9, 2012 at 8:51 pm

I’m a strong supporter of creating short-term goals. I like breaking down my long term goals into shorter increments. It keeps the goal fresh in my mind and keeps me excited as I reach ‘more goals’ in the time period.

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21 Cassie April 9, 2012 at 8:53 pm

@ J.Money – Does giving up debt count? ;)

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22 jefferson April 9, 2012 at 11:32 pm

i really like this idea, JM..

which one should i go with.. coffee shopsmaybe?.. just drink the free stuff @ work?.. ewww.
i’ll give it a shot :)

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23 Carol in Mpls April 9, 2012 at 11:55 pm

This is how I refocused my energies for the year. Each month is a specific area of life I’m wanting to improve or change, or just reinforce, and then I don’t have to be pulled in a million other ways. I began Diet Coke detox early, on Jan 1, though it was part of my Feb plans. I’m proud to say it’s stuck, no DC since Jan 1. Thankfully I’ve always been a water drinker, so that helps, and I’m learning how it feels to cope in the tempting situations, and get past that and stick with my plans. So far, so good, no slippage! I believe my teeth will thank me later…

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24 AverageJoe April 10, 2012 at 6:08 am

…but if you give up lottery tickets someone else is gonna win all that money! Say it ain’t so, J!

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25 J. Money April 10, 2012 at 10:36 am

@MoneySmartGuides – Exactly – and the more excited you are, the more your chances of accomplishing them!
@Cassie – Not if you only give it up for one month! ;)
@jefferson – Haha, you’d be a stronger man than I! Though MY “coffee shop” = my kitchen, haha… so not as bad for me ;)
@Carol in Mpls – Wowww, good for you! I’m addicted that stuff! I gave up sodas a few years ago for a while, and ever since I’ve cut back to only a few a week (instead of 1-2 every day). I’ve never lasted as long as you have though, so that’s a mighty fine accomplishment – well done :)
@AverageJoe – Noooooooooooooooo!!! Maybe you’ll have to buy enough to cover mine, so at least someone worthy wins ‘em? :)

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26 jesinalbuquerque April 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

You can also add something. I’m doing a 40-day yoga challenge right now– yoga and meditation every single day. Then I’m going to do a 40-day ‘walk’ challenge, a half hour walk every single day. I find positive initiatives are more motivating than giving up something.

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27 J. Money April 13, 2012 at 11:14 am

Even better! I love it :) I just started a “pushup and crunch” addition too actually – started with 1 of each on the first day, and will add 1 more as the days progress incrementally… we’ll see how it goes around day 50! Haha….

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