When it comes to managing personal finances, we generally see two types of people: those who treat money like a sprint and those who treat it like a marathon.
The sprint mentality encourages you to focus on one financial goal at a time — it’s especially trendy now, as we see more articles like “How to Pay Off Your Loan in X Amount of Time” or “How to Save for Your Vacation in Two Months” popping up online.
But there’s also the mindset that slow and steady wins the race. Marathon mentality encourages you to save a little for different goals over time — instead of having small wins more often, you work steadily toward multiple goals over a longer period.
Which one works better for you — sprinting or marathon running? Let’s do a quick pros and cons check for both.
Sprints: The faster you save, the faster you get there
Paying off something quickly or saving a ton of money over a short amount of time sometimes just feels good — and some of us really enjoy the challenge.
Pros: Gaining momentum is great for the quick wins — it puts you ahead at the beginning of the race. And focusing on checking one goal off your list at a time can make other goals feel less daunting. If you’re the kind of person that likes to have multiple wins along your path, you might be a sprinter.
Cons: You may not see the entire picture because your focus is narrow. This can create reactive behavior when it comes to dealing with money — which can cause a lot of stress. Sprinters often forget to enjoy the journey between start and finish (you know, that thing we call life).
Marathons: Slow and steady wins the race
Marathon runners take a more balanced approach. They don’t set the bar too high — they set it high enough so they can achieve their goals while also taking a moment to smell the roses. It’s all about pacing yourself.
Pros: Because your money is more diversified, you have room to be proactive and shift your focus when something unexpected comes up. And you’re always working on more than one goal at a time — making progress on many goals instead of just one.
Cons: Focusing on several goals all at once means that you’re going to be making slow progress. It’s easy to get bored or discouraged with a goal because it takes so long to accomplish, and it may seem like others are passing you in the race.
Why not balance them both?
Neither approach is perfect nor inherently wrong — and you may find that one works infinitely better for you than the other. But take a look at your financial goals and consider how a mix of both might help you win the race.
You can choose parts of each mindset that work for you. Maybe you focus on one goal but stay prepared to change course if something comes up. Keep an eye on the big picture by checking in with yourself to make sure you’re not at risk of burning out.
Find what works best for you, your goals, and your money. Are you a sprinter, a marathoner, or somewhere in between? Share it with us below.