Falling Short: Options When You Did Not Save Enough for Your Goal

Setting goals for your savings can be one of the most effective ways to put a “face” to your money and motivate you to put funds away for something specific. For example:

  • I will save $100 a month for 6 months so I can take a summer vacation to the mountains.
  • I need to save $1,200 ASAP for the new computer I plan to buy.
  • To have the retirement I want, I must save $228 every month for the next 40 years.

Goals are great, especially short-term goals which are my favorite. I try to break down any large goals I have into benchmarks I can readily achieve in 90 days or less. But what happens when I don’t?

Just Shy

If you’ve fallen shy of a savings goal, but you’re not too far off, there’s a good chance that you can still salvage things. Here are a few options:

  • Revise your expectations of the goal. If you’re saving up for a 5-star hotel, maybe you’ll have to settle for a 4-star instead.
  • Work harder at getting a deal. It might be that you set your original goal based on an estimate for something you wanted to buy or do. Are you sure you’re getting the best deal, and could you find one that meets what you’ve saved?
  • Extend the deadline. Could you meet your goal given another month, 6 months, or a year? Can you delay whatever you were saving for to get the full goal amount?

Way Off the Mark

If you’re not even close to reaching your goal, something went wrong along the way. It could be that:

  • You severely overestimated how much you could devote to your goal from your discretionary money.
  • An emergency/disaster forced you to use money out of your goal account.
  • You spent or used the money appropriated for your saving goal toward something else.

Whatever the culprit, if you’re too far off your goal, the options are limited:

  • Abandon the goal completely. Hopefully, the goal was something worthwhile in the first place, so this should be a last resort.
  • Use money from other goals for this goal. Priority-wise, if this goal is something that’s more important (or more urgent) than something else you’re saving for, it might make sense to cannibalize from another goal. But don’t mistake this as license to raid your retirement funds.
  • Restart the goal. If you deadline is indefinite, you might consider re-starting the goal from scratch, but this time with the head start of what you already saved.

Have You Ever Missed?

My guess is nearly all of us have missed reaching a financial goal at one time or another. How did you deal with it? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Photo by lululemon athletica

9 thoughts on “Falling Short: Options When You Did Not Save Enough for Your Goal

    1. Never considered that! Do you find that it gives you an “excuse” for not reaching your goals or do you just ignore it until you need it?

  1. My savings goal for the wedding wasn’t on track, so instead, we decided to decrease the cost of the wedding. We thought about pushing it back, but just reconsidered the costs.

    1. Kind of what we did for our wedding, too. It turns out that things come out OK after all. 🙂

  2. I usually am very focused on my goals and where exactly I want to be through planning, research and commitment. However sometimes misc. things come up and I need adjust and rework my plan. If I have everything written out and all my numbers in check then it is easy for me to adjust and deal with extending my deadline. I never want to abandon my goal and that will never be a option for me. Correct and continue is the motto I use.

    1. I don’t like the abandonment option either–when it crosses my mind, it makes me reconsider whether the goal was worthwhile/high priority in the first place.

  3. We have a pretty large slush fund for when we fall short of specific savings goals. This only works because we’re very dedicated savers and put money in that account whenever we have an unexpected budget surplus (from my small business, side jobs, etc).

  4. well i wanted to save 50k by end of the year.. i’m running a little behind on that considering Q1 is over cos my comp broke down & i signed up for a short education course.. since both are considered investments of sorts, i’ll be revising (restarting of sorts) the goal downwards to 35k..

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