How Much Do Your Goals Really Cost?

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“When it comes to goal setting, there are often costs associated with achieving those goals,” says Mike Brodsky, MBA, a financial advisor and author of the book “Incremental Improvements: Change Your Life One Small Step at a Time.” When setting goals, we don't often think about the costs involved in making it happen. At the beginning of a new year, we are excited to move forward with our goals and often don't think about the financial costs associated with them.

These costs, says Brodsky, aren't simply confined to the financial, though.

Emotional and social costs might also come with the goals we set.

Before you truly commit to a goal, make sure you understand all of the costs that come with working toward achieving your goals.

Financial Costs

Once you start thinking about goals and what it might take to achieve them, you may realize it will take some money to be successful. “Those who are trying to lose weight may find themselves paying more for nutritional meals than for fast food or junk food,” points out Brodsky. “They may also have to pay for a gym membership or a weight loss program.” Then there are consumers who go even farther, paying for dietitians and personal trainers.

Of course, your weight loss goal doesn't have to be expensive. I've been working toward living healthier, and my exercise routine doesn't require any expensive changes. My apartment complex has a fitness center, and I can access workout videos online. And while some of my food choices are more expensive now that they are healthier, the total extra cost to my monthly grocery bill is only another $35 or $40. That's not a bad price to pay for better health.

“Before investing in a gym membership for the year, maybe commit to a short bike ride every day, or a workout at home, just to keep the financial costs down,” suggests Brodsky.

In some cases, though, the cost can be part of the motivation. For some goal setters, the fact they are paying “good money” for certain services encourages them to keep going. My parents have maintained an exercise program for the last three years just because now they are paying for a monthly gym membership.

This is the first time in the 35 years I've known them that they've been able to stick with such a program. One of the keys is determining whether or not cost motivates you, and then decide if that cost is worth it.

There are times when certain financial costs are unavoidable. If you're determined to reach a certain pay grade, you may be required to attain a certain degree level or take a particular certification course. “Perhaps the costs of training can be reduced through Internet-based education,” says Brodsky. Additionally, you might qualify for scholarships or reimbursement programs from your employer in exchange for committing to a set number of years at the company.

Whether you're working on your health or your career or are hoping to learn a new language, there might be financial costs attached to your efforts. Make sure you understand these costs and confirm they are worth paying before you get too far in.

Emotional and Social Costs

Even if you manage to find a way to alleviate all of the financial costs associated with achieving goals, it doesn't mean there aren't other costs. Your goals might exact other costs from you.

Most obvious is the investment of time. You might have to put in time and effort if you want to be successful with your goals.

My goal of devoting some time to self-improvement each day doesn't require any money. I already have a guitar and piano. I just need to make the time commitment to practice. From starting a side business to paying down debt, there are time commitments involved in many goals. Make sure you understand how much time it truly takes to work on your goals, since you won't be able to get that time back.

Also realize there might be other emotional and social costs to your goals. “An individual focused on weight loss may find themselves dealing with peer pressure when eating meals or socializing,” says Brodsky. “It may be uncomfortable having to explain why you're not eating the appetizers or birthday cake when everyone else around you is.”

In order to avoid awkward questions, many people choose to avoid these situations altogether, which can impact your social life and even lead you to feel anxiety and depression because you no longer have the same relationships.

“For the individual trying to advance his or her career and taking classes or training, there's not only an investment of time, but perhaps also the sacrifice of bonding with family members, or other experiential costs,” Brodsky continues. “That individual might have to miss a child's basketball game or musical performance because he or she might have to attend a required class at the same time.”

The True Costs of Your Goals

These are the types of costs that are impossible to quantify, but which can never be recouped. As you consider your goals, it's important to think about the other costs and sacrifices, beyond money, that might result.

In some cases, a supportive family might help, and you might be able to make up for it in others ways. When your family relationships are on the line, though, it's important you look for creative ways to schedule your commitments so you aren't sacrificing what is most important in your life.

You also have to consider how long these costs will be exacted. In some cases, it can be a long process, and the cost continues to mount over time. If you don't have a plan for alleviating it, you could find yourself paying a heavy toll in terms of a broken marriage or strained relationships with your children and other loved ones.

There's nothing wrong with setting goals and working to improve yourself. However, it's important to be realistic about the cost. As long as you can make it work and you feel the cost is worth it, go ahead and pay it.

Miranda Marquit

Miranda is a journalistically trained freelance writer and professional blogger specializing in personal finance. Her work has appeared and been mentioned, in various media, online and off. You can follow Miranda on: Twitter

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