Have you ever wondered where your money is going every month? After paying the bills, covering unexpected expenses, putting some money aside for savings and having some fun, it can feel like your money disappears almost faster than you can earn it. It’s very easy to get caught up in the cycle of staying afloat — but this does little to help you move toward your larger goals.
The first step toward accomplishing what you want financially is setting realistic, motivational goals to help you take steps to get there.
Here are five tips to help you get started.
Put Your Plan on Paper
According to research from Charles Schwab, only one in four Americans have a written financial plan, but “those who do exhibit positive investing and saving behavior.”
It may seem like enough to hold your money-related goals in your head. But putting them into writing offers advantages. Accountability is chief among them. Plus, the act of translating your financial goals from your brain to the page or screen forces you to evaluate them more thoroughly. You’re also able to revisit your plan at regular intervals to update your goals as needed.
Set Distinct Short- and Long-Term Goals
It’ s important to distinguish between short- and long-term financial goals, although both are highly important. The simplest way to do so is tying each goal to an end date. From there, you can work backwards to determine how much you’ll need to save per week, month or year to fulfill them.
Andrew Housser, a debt expert who co-founded Freedom Debt Relief, puts this into practice in his own life by asking himself, “Where do I want to be one-, three- and five years from now?” He then takes action to make those plans a reality.
Start by thinking about what you want to accomplish this year. Then zoom out, looking at the next few years. Then think in terms of five- and 10-year intervals. Finally, think about what you want your retirement to look like. A healthy mix of short- and long-term goals will help you take steps to secure your immediate future and the bigger picture.
Break Down Your Savings Goals
Saving is an admirable goal, but it’s not enough to simply say you want to save more money — it’s too vague and easy to deprioritize. Every savings goal should have a specific purpose attached, whether it’s taking your dream vacation, building your emergency fund, buying a car, saving up a down payment on a house, renovating your home, helping your kids with college, eliminating your debt or saving ahead of a medical procedure.
Tie Your Goals to Real Life Events
Putting money in the bank is hardly motivational. But thinking about what it will be like to finally have the money you need to become debt-free or retire is. These are real life events with tangible mental, physical and emotional effects. Tying your goals to real-life events can help them seem more “real,” which in turn can help you drum up the motivation you need to stick to your savings efforts.
Get a System to Track Your Progress
We mentioned above how writing down your goals can help you stay on course. But tracking your progress over time is just as important. Figure out what motivates you to keep meeting your objectives and measuring your progress, whether it’s a budgeting app, a spreadsheet, checking in with a trusted friend or family member, meeting with a financial advisor or some combination of those.
Want to stay motivated to meet your money goals? It all depends on how you go about setting them.
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