Goal-setting gurus will tell you that your goal needs to be “attainable.” In other words, your goal should be something you can achieve with reasonable effort. But I say that, sometimes, it’s better to set goals that don’t make sense.
Paying off our mortgage in five years is one of those goals. Right now, we owe $360,000. When you factor in five years of interest, that brings the total to around $400,000. We will need to pay roughly $80,000 a year for five years.
From the income side of things, last year, we brought home around $99,000 after taxes. After paying $80,000 to our mortgage, that would leave us less than $20,000 for our family of seven to live on for the year, or roughly $1,500 per month. Wouldn’t you agree that looks pretty impossible?
So, why in the world would we set a goal that looks absolutely impossible on paper? The truth is, it takes an “impossible” goal to get us excited.
Back in 2013, we set a similarly impossible goal. We determined to pay off $130,000 of student loan debt in three years when my husband was making just $39,000. Even if every dime of this income went to debt, we still couldn’t have achieved that goal, nevermind any living expenses for our growing family. Still, we set the goal and didn’t look back.
The enormity of our goal got us fired up and excited. We shared our excitement with everyone and made the internet our accountability partner. We made sacrifices and cut expenses like crazy. We found clever ways to do this, like buying second-hand Christmas gifts. We worked hard to increase our income to pay off debt. We weighed every purchase against our desire to be debt-free.
In less than three years, we achieved our goal of debt freedom. Had we not set that crazy, “impossible” goal of paying off those loans fast, we would still be trudging along with our student loan payments today.
We have set other less exciting financial goals since paying off that six-figure student loan debt, but mediocre goals got us mediocre motivation. Crazy goals, on the other hand, bring crazy motivation. So, we’re at it again, and we couldn’t be more excited.
How are we going to do it? We’ll follow the pattern that we set when we paid off debt the first time.
First, we will scale down our expenses, though we’re already pretty frugal by most standards. We feed our family of seven on $400 per month. We own older vehicles. Our entertainment budget is very slim. Still, we’ll find areas to trim our expenses.
Then, with an optimized plan for our money (yes, a budget), we’ll work on increasing our income again, just like before. Between my husband changing jobs and starting a law firm on the side, and me starting a blog, we grew our income pretty significantly during our student loan payoff years. We’re fired up to do it all again.
Don’t be afraid to think big. An impossible goal might be the key to your success.
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