The Importance of Setting Milestones and Celebrating Little Wins

Since buying our duplex in April, our to-do list has had no shortage of things to do. Every time we get to cross something off the list, it seems two or three things have been added to it in the meantime.

Don’t get me wrong—working on the house and starting various projects has been super fun and an awesome learning experience. Plus, I’m incredibly lucky to have a partner who is excellent at planning and research to help me along. But when you’re trudging through any long-term project (whether working towards FI, updating a house, or a major project at work) you’ll have days that leave you feeling demoralized or thinking you’re not making quick enough progress.

To help balance this, it’s important to make sure you set up milestones along the way and celebrate little wins.

Setting up milestones helps you realize the progress you’re making when you’re working on something longterm, and pausing to celebrate little wins is crucial to keeping up motivation.

This weekend we finally started installing the new fence on the rental side of the duplex and installed the new mailboxes (one of our mailboxes was so low to the ground, we got multiple notices from USPS that it needed to be raised). The fence was something that felt overwhelming to start, and we knew it meant long hours outside. We’d been pushing it off hoping for cooler weather to arrive, but Florida was not so obliging. I’m publishing this post on October 27, and today the high was 91 degrees and the heat index felt like over 100. (If you live somewhere cool, frolic in some orange leaves for me, please.)

We knew we’d be getting busier with the upcoming holidays and so this past Sunday, we decided to finally just commit to the project. We made good progress and now that it’s started, I actually feel excited to get back out and finish it.

Enjoy these work in progress photos (featuring the old, touching-the-ground mailbox):

After a very sweaty Sunday and some opportunities to exercise our problem-solving skills, we basked in the glow of our handiwork and a nice cold beer. (Come to think of it, that glow could have been our sweat.)

Sure, we still need to caulk the baseboards, install shelves in our pantry, fully set up my office, build the bench for our dining room table, and lay a stone patio in the backyard – but this fence will be done by the end of this week and we’re going to celebrate goddammit.

Anyways, all of this got me thinking about the important milestones you can set for yourself when taking control of your financial life – after all, that’s a lifelong project! Here are a few milestones that I think are worth acknowledging and celebrating.

Some Financial Milestones You Can Celebrate

  • Look at the full picture of your financial life. What you have, what you owe, and how you spend.
  • Save your first $1,000 in your emergency fund.
  • Successfully track your spending for 3 months.
  • Fund all of your sinking fund categories in a month.
  • Pay off credit card/s if you carry a balance. Celebrate each one you pay off!
  • Open a retirement/investment account (and set up automatic contributions).
  • Pay off an auto loan.
  • Save 3 months worth of living expenses.
  • Handle an emergency expense without feeling (super) stressed about the money.
  • Have a positive net worth.
  • Save up a down payment.
  • Pay off student loans.
  • Reach a net worth of $10,000
  • Reach a net worth of $25,000
  • Reach a net worth of $50,000
  • Reach a net worth of $100,000
  • Reach a net worth of $[insert number here]
  • Pay off your mortgage.
  • Reach Financial Independence!

There are tons of big and little milestones that are worth acknowledging and celebrating, and the examples I listed above don’t necessarily need to go in that order.

Celebrating doesn’t mean you have to throw party or buy yourself something nice. It might mean cooking your favorite meal, making your favorite drink, telling a friend about your accomplishment, or planning a special night and opening a bottle of champagne.

When I hit a big money milestone, one of my favorite ways to celebrate is to sit with Cassie on our porch, listening to music, drinking a beer, and talking about how wild it is that we’ve come so far in such a short amount of time. It’s simple, but it makes me feel grateful, and hopeful, and filled with a tipsy sense of wonder – which is really what I want out of any good celebration.

Otherwise, in this house, general life milestones get celebrated with really good Mexican food.

What is the next financial milestone you’ve set for yourself and how will you celebrate when you get there?

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