Setting a Reward for a Big Goal

I don’t talk about this much here because this is a PF blog and not a weight-loss blog, but occasionally the two intersect and I think this is a relevant topic.  I’ve mentioned a few times that I used to be obese and I lost a bunch of weight in 2011.  However, in the last nine months-ish I’ve gained about half that weight back and I’ve decided to get serious about returning to my goal weight.  I’ve been “getting serious” for about two months now and am on the way.


Something popular with people trying to reach a goal weight (or achieve many other goals) is to set a reward for when the goal is achieved – some incentive to look forward to when the going gets tough.  In my last successful weight-loss campaign I didn’t give myself a reward at the end because the challenge itself was enough, but this time around I think I would like a reward.


Of course, when you’re losing weight and trying to get healthy it’s not necessarily the best idea to reward yourself with food!  Our budget is also not exactly flexible enough to have room for an expensive reward like a vacation or an entirely new wardrobe, which I know many other people plan for.  But it is really super hard for me to think of a special reward that doesn’t cost any money!


photographerI did think of something that isn’t terribly expensive that is fitting for this particular accomplishment – I’d like to do a couples photoshoot with Kyle.  The only professional photos we’ve had taken were our engagement and wedding ones, and I don’t love love them because of how I look.  My weight at that time was a bit above where it currently is (though thankfully not close to my high) and I’m not happy with how my hair and makeup turned out.  (Kyle, naturally, looks gorgeous in all the pictures with his normal face and hair.)


As photos are so valuable to me, I’d like to have some really high-quality ones taken at time when I’m happy with my body.  I would like to achieve this goal and have the photos taken before we start trying to reproduce in a couple years, because 1) I’d like to go into pregnancy as healthy as possible (I’m super nervous about getting gestational diabetes) and 2) I’m sure I’ll have another multi-year challenge to return to a healthy weight post-pregnancies.  I’ve looked up some local photographers and it seems the cost should be a couple hundred dollars, which I think is quite reasonable.


I don’t think you have to set a reward ahead of you when you articulate a goal.  I was successful before without a reward as I had a definite timeframe.  However, since I’m not setting a deadline for myself I would like another method to push me forward.  And it really is tough to find an appropriate reward that wouldn’t involve food or money!


Do you name a reward when you set yourself a goal?  How do you reward yourself for free or cheap?  Have you had professional photos taken of you outside of your wedding?


photo by Amy Goodrich Photography


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32 Responses to "Setting a Reward for a Big Goal"

  1. Cash Rebel says:

    That’s a really neat idea. It sounds like it’d be reasonably priced and you can keep it forever. I’ve never set rewards for the goals I’ve wanted to achieve, but maybe I should. Maybe a vacation once I hit a certain net worth…

    1. Emily says:

      I think that would be very fitting! Just make sure you’ve saved over and above your net worth goal for the vacation. 🙂 Wouldn’t want to come back from it back under your goal, as I’m sure happens with weight loss when people reward with a break from their new habits.

  2. Lucas says:

    As I do pro-photography on the side I of course agree that getting professional pictures taken is a great idea! They are relatively cheap, capture great memories, and last forever (as long as you back up effectively). Make sure you get at least full print rights to the pictures though, and don’t have to go back for prints every time you want one.

    I don’t prioritize jobs much at the moment due to family time desires and the fact that it doesn’t pay that well unless you are at the top of the trade. Going rates for myself were between $150-200 for a 1 hour photo session, full editing, DVDs with images, and digital rights to all the images (rates depended on location and promotions I had going). Total time spent per session was ~4-6 hours when you include the travel and editing. $25-50/hr sounds pretty good, but doesn’t include all the equipment and software costs which are pretty large. I was lucky if I got $15/hr out of each session.

    1. Emily says:

      Yeah we are definitely going to get all the digital rights. I was surprised to see some photographers don’t include that in their base packages!

      That is not such a great pay rate when you factor in the equipment costs, but I guess it just depends on how much you enjoy the work and subsidizing your equipment. Sounds like for now you’d rather have family time, which is great.

      1. Lucas says:

        Yeah it is fun on the side, but you have to be really good at marketing and business (skill is actually secondary to making money unfortunatly) to make more then 30k a year as a full time photographer.

        When my kids are a little older I hope to involve them a bit more 🙂

  3. Sara says:

    I know of a couple who takes professional pictures each year on their anniversary which I think is so neat. Love your idea, too.

    If you had to re-do, would you get engagement photos again? We just can’t decide!

    1. Emily says:

      That is a great idea to do it yearly. I might opt for not quite so frequently, though. Do they use the same photographer? If I was taking pictures so frequently I would want to play around with different photo styles each year.

      Hmmm, yes I would do them again because I love photos so much. For us it was included in our wedding photo package. I think aside from the photos themselves, which you’ll decide how much you value them, it’s nice to get to know how the photographer work before the Big Day (and get used to being directed) and have a dry run for hair and makeup as well. (For me the dry run did help a bit but not enough!) We printed a few of our engagement photos for framing and display in our home and put a few in the photobook that served as our guestbook.

  4. That’s a great reward. I look through our wedding photos every once in a while and it’s always a rewarding experience.

    I’m an extrovert so I think a goal like that would be especially motivating for me. Depending on how affordable the service is, you could repeat it every so often and keep using the upcoming photos as motivation…
    Done by Forty recently posted..Produce Haul

    1. Emily says:

      Oh, that’s a good idea – if I am paying for pics every 2 years, say, that’s motivation to maintain very closely.

  5. Mrs PoP says:

    I don’t always name a reward, but mr pop totally needs a reward in mind for a big goal. Though in the end he doesn’t always get it, I think he just likes having the option to splurge. =).

    As for photos, I’ve only ever been in professional photos at other people’s weddings (unless you count my HS senior pictures), but being in lots of pictures is my own secret version of hell. But if that’s a reward you want, seems like something you could really treasure for a long time.
    Mrs PoP recently posted..PoP Balance Sheet – July 2013

    1. Emily says:

      I’m like that sometimes as well – I might not take advantage of the permission I’ve given myself. (That sounds strange…)

      You and I would not make out well as friends IRL because I would take so many pictures of you! Good thing we’re friends on the internet. 🙂

  6. I think it’s important to have reward yourself once you have reached an important goal. Makes it easier to set goals next time 🙂
    SavvyFinancialLatina recently posted..Developing an Informal Mentoring Relationship

    1. Emily says:

      What do you reward yourself with typically?

  7. Michelle says:

    I definitely think rewards are a great idea. They can be a big motivator for someone trying to reach a goal.
    Michelle recently posted..July Goals and Life Update

    1. Emily says:

      I’ve never tried it before (mostly used deadlines) but I’m excited! It’s something I want anyway so tying it to the goal makes sense.

  8. I totally agree with the photos thing! That’s a great reward that isn’t too costly and has high personal value. Good luck in getting back in shape! I’ve slipped a bit too, which isn’t great with an upcoming wedding.
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..Happy Monday to you too!

    1. Emily says:

      I didn’t try to trim down in advance of our wedding – I had WAY too much else going on. I’m actually pretty glad I didn’t try to add it in even though I’m not totally happy with how I looked – looks aren’t everything and sanity is important. 🙂 After the wedding I really had the time to devote to researching how to eat well (thank you, Gary Taubes!).

  9. Matt Becker says:

    Sounds like a good reward. Fits in with your values, fits in with the actual goal, and fits into the budget. I’ve never really been big into rewards but I do think they can make a lot of sense. For me the bigger motivator is setting smaller goals along the way so I can feel like I achieved something.
    Matt Becker recently posted..Is Peer-to-Peer Lending the Next Big Thing?

    1. Emily says:

      That makes sense, too. When I lost weight before I broke it down into 20% increments. I do have a small weight goal tied to a life event (a reunion – so cliche) along the way so that is helping.

  10. I budget myself monthly incentive money each month. If I get there great! If I fall a little short, the budget still works out in the end.
    Michael | The Student Loan Sherpa recently posted..Student Loans: A Trillion Dollar Problem

    1. Emily says:

      That’s a good idea. We do something similar – we build a little cushion into our budget and use the leftover money for one of our fun targeted savings accounts!

  11. I love the idea of rewards for goals. I too am trying to lose some weight and get back in shape. I hadn’t thought of photos as being a reward, but I love that idea. Especially since the weight loss and photos seem to go hand in hand. Bf and I have very few decent photos together and I’d love to do a photo shoot. I’ve been keeping my eye on those groupon and living social deals. Once in a while you get a good one for an inexpensive photo shoot.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Professors Deserve Respect!

    1. Emily says:

      I’m glad you liked my idea! I hope you go for it with this reward!

  12. I’m in the same place with weight. I lost a third of my body-weight a few years ago and have put half of it back on since getting married. My problem is that all of the rewards that motivate me ARE food!
    Edward Antrobus recently posted..Net Worth Update: July 2013

    1. Emily says:

      I’ve done much better by dropping some foods completely than by practicing “moderation.” So I don’t actually want to break my rules to treat myself, which I totally would if I was calorie-counting or whatever. But it is very difficult to come up with another fitting reward!

  13. I think that’s a great reward. I’ve been bartering with a great photographer quite some time. We do family photos every couple of years, and while I hate the process, I am very thankful to have them to look back on, and I think you will too. Best of luck.
    Kim@Eyesonthedollar recently posted..Finding a Job In a Tough Market

    1. Emily says:

      Man, I wish I had a skill to barter! That is awesome! That’s what I love the most – looking back on the photos!

  14. Best of luck with your goal Emily. I am sure you look great on your wedding pics, but we are just too harsh to judge ourselves. I do the same too.
    The shoot is a great idea, I have never done one and am a bit shy with cameras but enjoy when the pic turns out nice.
    Pauline @ Make Money Your Way recently posted..Renting part of your house or basement long term

    1. Emily says:

      Oh, yes, I do love our pictures and I am comfortable with my body but I just think that I have the potential to look better and I would like to immortalize it. 🙂 I agree the shoots can be awkward but it’s worth it later!

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