Every year, millions of people around the country (and maybe the world) set goals they want to hit for the New Year. Naturally, they are set for the entire year but most only make it for a few days, or at best, months. Yet each year, never fail, we try again. I’m not here to say we are insane (even though the not so accurate definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results) nor to tell you to stop setting goals. I’d like to talk about how to make financial goals that are achievable and something you can actually stick to.
While I’d love to talk about how to get promoted, how to lose 10 pounds, or how to get that person to fall in love with you (all of which I’m sure we could figure out together) that’s probably not why you read my blog. So, let’s talk about the millions of people who set financial goals for themselves (if that’s not you, maybe it should be, just saying #bossy) and how you can make them happen.
Here’s a list of ways to successfully set and hit your financial goals for 2019 (deep breath):
1. Make your financial goals realistic
Duh! I know, this seems so easy but it must be said, and must be said first. We have to eliminate the, “I want to be a millionaire,” or the “I want to save $50,000 for a wedding next year when I only have $500 in the bank today” type goals. While it’s difficult to explain what is realistic via a blog, there are some ways to identify feasibility. Check out how you did last year, financially speaking. Don’t try to quadruple your goals from last year. Make it something you could push yourself to hit, but not something so big that you’ll give up on because ‘it’s too hard’.
2. Make your goals exact so you know if you hit it or not
In the Financial Wellness class I teach, I like to ask the employees to “Give me some of your goals.” I hear things like, “Spend less,” “Save more,” or even “Buy less shoes.” While these goals are great in principle, they are too vague. If it’s Dec 31st 2019, how will you really know if you’ve met any of these goals? Setting goals that are exact help you make sure you are hitting the goal. Some examples are: “Buy only 3 coffees a week,” “Contribute 2% more to my retirement plan this year,” “Buy only 2 pairs of shoes this year,” “Take only 3 Lyft rides a week,” and “Eat out only 2 times a week.” This specificity helps you build up some much needed anxiety when you’re reaching for the handle at Starbucks on coffee number 4 of the week instead of 3, causing you to not only break your financial resolution months in to the New Year but making you realize that you’re not actually sure if you’ve “spent less” so far this year. This leads to my next tip!
3. Condense your goals into shorter wins
It will always be easier if you can track goals on a shorter time frame because it’s easier to keep tally. Shorter goals also let you congratulate yourself more often, and I mean, who doesn’t like that? I like to do things on a week by week basis – it’s quite hard to know how many Starbucks coffees or Lyft rides you had in a month, but it’s easy on a week basis. This doesn’t apply to ‘for fun’ online shopping though (hopefully). Maybe those goals are, “I can only do ‘for fun’ online shopping once a month on odd months (Jan., Mar.,…etc.).”
4. Make sure your goals are easy to track
While similar to the last tip, this builds on number 3 a bit more. Goals that can be counted on your fingers (like 3 coffees/week or 4 lyft rides/week) are easy because you can remember them. For example: “I had a latte Monday morning, then Wednesday…ok I’ve got one more special coffee left this week!” Tracking can also be done via an app! Hurray technology! If you’re using an app that has notification settings, turn them on! Set the app to your spending goal (Like: Only spend $100 each month at Target) and let it do the work.
5. Get your numbers right
Brace yourself, this tip is for the advanced and partially OCD. If that’s not you, just skip to number 6 because doing the other 5 steps is way better than throwing your hands up and giving up all together after reading this.
The best way to save towards a goal is to actually know how to get there, dollar for dollar. If you google the phrase: “savings calculator,” there are many sites that can help you figure out how much you need to save per month to reach your goal.
If you just want to save a certain dollar amount and see how far that will go (i.e. “If I put $100 a month into a savings account how much will that be in 5 years”) use this site: https://smartasset.com/checking-account/savings-calculator.
If you know you need $30,000 to pay for your wedding in 2 years and need to see how much to save each month, use this site: https://www.bankrate.com/calculators/savings/saving-goals-calculator.aspx
Now you have a real goal that you can work towards and save accordingly.
6. Set up tools to make reaching your goal easier
If you’re trying to save money, at all or ever, set up a separate savings account to syphon your money. Most of us have an inclination to spend money when we see it in our checking account. Think about it, if you’ve got an extra $1000 in your checking account why wouldn’t you just splurge and get coffee number 4 this week? (Ok, ok you can get your damn coffee but saving is all about your behavioral changes) If you automatically start moving your extra money into a new savings account (maybe labeled “wedding fund”) you won’t even know it’s there until you open your savings account a year later… it’s like magic!
If you’re just worried about overspending, as I mentioned earlier, there are apps like Mint or YouNeedABudget that can help you set alerts when you are overspending. Set these up if you don’t think you’ll remember to do it solo.
In a nutshell, although thank you for reading this far, hitting your financial goals is all about having the right behaviors and discipline. You have to want to hit your financial goal, and to feel proud of yourself when you get there. My friends used to think I was “stingy,” and maybe I was when it came to things like coffee or designer shoes, but I didn’t deprive myself of things I really wanted like traveling or going out. My being “stingy” helped me to reach my financial saving goals. Now I’ve got half a million dollars saved. Eating in and buying a coffee machine made me happier because spending less money on useless things makes me happy. How can we find a way to get you there?
Happy Goal Hitting,