This time of year we are naturally drawn to goals. You likely have several personal goals, or resolutions, for 2018. They may center around health and fitness, your career, your relationships, but what about your financial goals?
You can use this strategy to set and stick to your financial goals in 2018.
Start creating your financial goals using the acronym SMART, meaning Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.
Target a specific area for improvement. Avoid vague goal statements, such as “I want to spend less this year, so I can buy a house.”
Quantify your goal so that you can measure progress. Instead of saying you want to spend less, focus on a target amount that you would like to save.
The goal should be realistic and something you can actually achieve. To do this, avoid lofty goals. For example, if you are 25 and haven’t started a retirement savings plan, it’s unlikely that you could retire in the next 10 years.
The goal should matter to you personally. It should align with other personal goals and aspirations. If it doesn’t, you’re less likely to care if you reach it.
Set a deadline. You can break goals up by short, medium, and long term achievement. A short term goal is something you expect to accomplish in under a year. An example would be to double your savings account. Medium term goals are what you can expect to reach in under five years. Let’s say paying off a student loan, or saving money for a down payment on a new home. Long term goals will take you five or more years to hit, think retirement planning.
Write Down Your Goals
Writing them down makes them more real. You can write them on a chalkboard or white board or in a journal for a bit more privacy. Wherever you choose to write them, make sure they are accessible and that you see them regularly.
Use Automation Tools
Once you have your goals set and documented, you can use tools that will help you “set it and forget it.” If your goal is to save a certain amount by the end of the year, decide how much you need to set aside from each paycheck. Update your direct deposit settings through your employer so that the money is automatically routed to a savings account each pay period. Set up automatic payments to reduce your debt.
Check In Frequently
It’s important to stay on top of your progress. Check your accounts regularly, at minimum once per week, to keep any eye on your spending and how close you are to reaching your milestone.
For each milestone you hit, decide how you will reward yourself. This way you can literally keep your eye on the prize. If you pay off a personal loan, you could reward yourself by redirecting that loan payment to a savings account. In just a few months, you could have enough saved up to treat yourself to something fun or be one step closer to a medium or long term goal.
Sticking to financial goals takes an incredible amount of discipline. A personal budget will help you stay on the right track. Download our Monthly Budgeting Sheet and get started on a better 2018 today.