Ready, Fire, Aim!

You’ve probably heard the expression, “Ready, fire, aim!” before. It makes us laugh a little, because of course we know that it should really be “Ready, aim, fire!”. Sadly, the reality is that it’s often neither of those things.

Instead, we go with “Ready, fire!” — which is at least better than never getting to “fire!” at all.

Of course we all know that “Ready, aim, fire!” gets the best results, even though the other scenarios are much more common. But they don’t have to be.

How do you make sure you’re on the right track?

First, set a reasonable goal for yourself. (Go ahead and make it a SMART goal, for best results.) Get an idea of exactly where you would like to go, and then figure out what would be the reasonable steps toward getting there. Finally, implement your plan.

For example, maybe you want to buy a house.


In that case, start by doing a little thinking. What kind of house will you be looking for? What are the things you want it to have for sure, and what are your “nice to haves”? Do some research to see if what you want is feasible at this time, and to figure out what you’ll need to get in place first if it’s not.

Learn what is reasonable for your income, learn what your mortgage options are, and figure out how much of a down payment you might need in order to buy the kind of house you’re looking for. This is the “ready” phase.


Next, aim toward where you want to be. Decide when you’d like to have the down payment by, and figure up how much you’ll need to set aside (either from your current income or possibly from an extra job) each month in order to get there by your deadline. Find out what you’ll need to do to get the best rate possible.

In other words, see what’s reasonable and sustainable over the period you have in mind, and plan out exactly how you’ll get there — including any changes you may need to make first to your current financial situation.

When you put in the appropriate amount of preparation time, you’re much more likely to discover potential obstacles ahead of time, take them into account, and follow through to completion.

“Fire” by implementing your plan

Depending on where you are right now, implementing your plan to buy a house could start in a variety of places. It could mean using a debt snowball to get out of debt first so that you’ll be in good shape financially, automating your savings to get that down payment fund built up, or taking a look at the market to see what’s available.

The important thing is to put your plan into action in the right order. If you can’t afford that house today, don’t start by getting a Realtor and putting in offers. “Fire” in the right order, and you’ll have the best shot at long-term success. The same thing is true, of course, no matter what your goal is. Fire when ready, after aiming at the right things.


  • My wife suffers from a lack of patience and often follows the “Fire, Aim, Ready” philosophy. It has taken almost 6 years but I now have her to the point where she at least stops to think and maybe consults me before she fires. I think any money decision over $50 deserves some contemplation before taking action. In fact, I often stop for 10 seconds before making even small purchases.

  • Definitely something to consider if you’re an impulse shopper. Thanks for setting us straight!

  • I have seen this happen numerous times and I have done it myself. The key is not letting your emotions, wants and desires impair rational thinking. Some people just ready fire! No plan or when it comes down to it the think about it but the plan to them will take too long to carry out.

    • Oh boy, don’t get me started on “a plan will take too long to carry out”. People don’t realize that generally speaking, the more time you spend planning, the smoother things go :)

  • I am often a fire first and clean up the pieces later type. While that has helped me in many situations, it has also caused me a headache when I had to go back and do things again. I should remember to be patient and do it right the first time.

  • Nice, concise framework! I think the “ready” part is one that many often don’t spend enough time on. Skipping that part, and skating through the “aim” step, leads to wild and undisciplined decisions – be it spending, or many other things.