It’s graduation season which is always an exciting time! Students wearing silly hats and robes walk across the stage to receive a diploma and reflect on all the work it took them to get to this day. They did it! They reached their goal! Think back to your most recent graduation day, whether it be high school or college. It felt accomplishing, right? This is what you get when you reach your goals.
Setting financial goals is an awesome place to start when you’re on the road to financial success. I am a huge advocate for goal setting. It really helps me think about what I want, and pushes me to get there. This doesn’t have to just be a financial thing either! Set some goals for your personal life, career, and whatever else you may have planned in life. Here are some good tips on goal setting:
Actually Write It Down
No really. Get out a pen and paper (or your computer) and write down your goals. This helps you to actually focus on what you want to achieve. It also enables you to have something to look back on that you are going to remember. I would even suggest hanging up your goals somewhere that you will see quite often. Maybe pin it up above your desk, or hang it on a door so that you’ll see it frequently. This will give you the motivation to keep working at your goals when you may feel discouraged. Reminding yourself where you want to be will help push you to keep going!
If you’ve ever been a serious goal setter, you’ve probably heard of SMART goals, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Follow this criteria when setting goals. I hear people who set goals like “pay off student loans.” But where are the details? When do you want to pay off your loans by? Is this something you can actually reach? A better goal might say “pay off $20,000 in loans to be debt free by May 2019.” That’s better! It’s specific, measurable, and time-bound. Hopefully this is also realistic depending on your income and additional expenses!
Another tip on the time aspect of a goal is to make the time period smaller. Yes, overall you want to pay off $20,000 by May 2019, but doesn’t that sound like so much money? And feel so far away? It may feel so unreachable with that date being so far in the future. My advice is to break your big goal into smaller goals. I heard that we achieve goals best in 3 month increments. It leaves enough time to get things done, but it also isn’t too long for us to procrastinate. So, maybe this means your goal is “pay $1,700 to loans by August 2016.” Perfect! Paying off $1,700 sounds a lot more doable than $20,000 total. And August feels a lot more real than 2019! Then when August comes, you can evaluate how you did. Maybe $1,700 was too easy for you and you decide to do $2,000 by November! It will take some time to figure out a goal that is realistic but will still push you to accomplish. I recommend using this process/way of thinking even if you’re saving for something. Breaking it up by 1 or 3 months will feel a lot less overwhelming.
Now that you’ve written down what you want to achieve, I encourage you to write down HOW you will reach your goals. There is more to this than just “saving money.” Think about realistic ways that you can save money to reach your goals. The first thing I would suggest would to cut back on eating out and Starbucks. Have you ever realized how much you actually spend on these items?
Stick With It
The truth is, it isn’t easy to stick to your goals. It’s going to take some hard dedicated work! But the end result will be so worth it. This is why I suggest hanging up your goals somewhere that you will see them often. There are many times when I see friends post about the exciting trips they go on, or how much they go out, and that’s something that I don’t do right now so that I can reach my goals. I have given up those things for the moment so that I can fully enjoy them more in the future. When you feel discouraged by the things that you have sacrificed to reach your goals, look at your goals again to remind yourself what you’re working for. And it feels oh so good to cross that off your list and accomplish the goal that you’ve set!
Goal Setting Beyond Debt
Feel free to create fun/reward goals as well! Maybe you dream of going to Disney World at Christmas time. Make it a goal to go to Disney World for Christmas 2020. This would be something fun to look forward to after you are debt free!
So sit down and get those goals written! Create a plan for yourself so that you can pay off debts, save for a vacation, a car, or a down payment on a house. What goals have you set for yourself?