Everybody knows that in January people are jotting down all the goals they have for the year, but, more often than not, by the time March rolls around those goals are nowhere to be found. That’s because it’s much easier to revert back to old habits that are deeply ingrained in your daily routine than it is to form new ones. But not anymore.
By following one or more of the following 3 ways to set and stick to your financial goals, you will never again feel like you failed to achieve your goals! So, let’s dive right in:
Create SMART financial goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. You want to go through your financial goals and check for each of these factors. For example, one person’s goal might be “I want to save more money.” Saying that out loud sounds nice, but that’s just too general.
Whoever sets that goal is not very likely to achieve it. Let’s go through and improve it by changing it to a SMART financial goal. First, we need to make it more specific by naming the dollar amount we want to save. Next, we want to be sure it’s a goal we can measure so we need a place where we can track the growth of our savings. After that, we must make sure it’s actually achievable and realistic by adding in the specific type of account we have or will need to set up and the baby steps we will take along the way. Finally, we add the deadline for completing the goal so that we can check our progress on that date. After these steps are all done the goal might sound more like:
“I want to save $500 in a high yield savings account by depositing $50 every Friday for the next 10 weeks.”
Embed financial goals into your routines.
Let’s be real, there’s something you’re already doing in your daily or weekly life that you’re proud of. Whether it’s eating a healthy lunch, going to the laundromat, working out, calling your mom, etc. Instead of beating yourself up about not achieving your financial goals, why not break your big goal into smaller bite-sized goals and bake them right into these routines that you’re already knocking out of the park?
Here’s one example: My close friend really wanted to start funding her Roth IRA, but could not get herself to create the account and just get started. One day, during our weekly phone call I said, “Girl when we get off the phone just spend 5 minutes creating the account on the website and next week when we talk you can make the first deposit.” Since we rarely go a week without calling each other, it was easy to tack on this new routine to the weekly calls. She created the account and funded it. Every week after I spoke to her, she’d log in and contribute however much she could afford on that day – even as little as $10. Eventually, I helped her graduate up to automating those contributions, but that routine was how she got started, and getting started with financial goals can oftentimes be the hardest part!
Maybe for you the daily routine of brushing your teeth or setting your alarm at night could be coupled with logging into your mobile banking app and setting up a transfer of $1 or more to your savings account so that by the end of the month you’ve saved an extra $30 without really feeling it and by the end of the year that means an additional $360 in savings. It all adds up!
Find accountability buddies.
I know that it was especially helpful for my friend to complete her goal because we talked about it each week. That was the added bonus in her routine. If you don’t have an individual that you can trust to keep you on track, then use social media to help you out! Post your goal each day or week and tell people to private message you throughout the day or week asking you to share the progress you’ve made. If you do this at breakfast and then head to work or school and don’t check your phone again until lunchtime, you’ll be shocked to see how many messages you’ll have both reminding you and encouraging you to take the necessary steps for that day or week to get closer to achieving your financial goals!