If this is your first time here, Molly’s Money is a regular series I write on this blog that includes ALL things personal finance – debt management, budgeting, home buying, savings, investment, etc. I am NOT a financial advisor, but I am married to one! These are just things that I have learned over the years as I struggled with my own personal finances and ultimately, became debt free in 2012. Got a question about money that you want answered? Leave it in the comments below or email me!
One of the most common email questions I get (and there are a lot of common questions, for sure, but this just happens to be one of the MOST common…) is “I want to be debt free, but I don’t know how to get there… how do I even set that as a goal?” or “I want to save for the future, but how do I get started?” or “How do I even begin to set financial goals when I can’t even pay my bills on time?”
Yes, I realize those were three questions, but they all ask basically the same thing: “How do I set ACHIEVABLE financial goals?” And maybe for some of you, this is a strength. You thrive off of goal setting and working towards achieving them… but for others, this may be a real task for you and you need a little encouragement or a few tips – this post is for you!
I know, I know, I say this all the time. But seriously. It still shocks me when I find out how many people don’t have a WRITTEN BUDGET. I don’t care if you use an app, or a spreadsheet (like we do), or an abacus (I don’t think that would actually work for a budget), but use SOMETHING. Use what works for you. In order to achieve ANY financial goal, doesn’t matter what it is, you HAVE to have a budget. If you already have one, then GREAT! You can move on to the next thing.
Whether it’s on a notepad, on the computer, on your phone, in an email… wherever… but think about what your financial goals are and PHYSICALLY write them down. So often we might have a goal running around in our head, but we never take the time to actually write it down. Now is the time to do that. Just write it down. We will get to achieving them and organizing them later. And, if you want, make the list look pretty. Put the list somewhere you can SEE it. Tape it up by your desk or put it as your background on your phone… put it somewhere where you can see it often and be reminded of your goals.
No goal is too large or too small. These can be anything from becoming debt free, to paying off your student loans, to paying off your mortgage and owning your home, or owning / buying a home to begin with, or starting a business, or even just paying your bills on time… It can be ANYTHING!
Notice I don’t say “most achievable” to “most unachievable” – because no goal is unachievable – BUT, there certainly will be goals that may be more difficult or take more effort to reach. If “paying your bills on time” is a goal, I would probably put that first because that is MOST achievable. If “paying off your house” is a goal, I’d probably put that lower on the list, because that’s going to take more work.
Now is the time that you sit down and for each goal, write out what would need to happen for that goal to be achieved. For some goals, it might only take one or two things, for others, it may take many things like achieving previous goals in order to achieve later goals. Are we trackin’?
For example, if you’re goal is to pay your bills on time… to achieve that goal, maybe you need to have a calendar on your desk or refrigerator that shows what days bills are due. Then maybe you set a reminder on your phone for when to pay those bills. Or maybe you even set up automatic draft from your bank account for those bills. Whatever works for you!
These steps must be “mini goals” within each bigger goal… but these mini goals need to be achievable.
Once you set your goals, you need to COMMIT to them. Don’t necessarily give yourself a timeline (unless, of course, a particular goal is timeline based…)… but DO NOT lose sight of your goals.
I HIGHLY suggest finding an accountability partner. Maybe it’s your spouse, a parent, a best friend, a co-worker… tell someone about your goals and enlist their help and encourage you to achieve them! My husband is totally my accountability partner and I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m able to get done without him! He’s the best encourager! So find that person for you!
Achieving goals is no fun if there’s no end reward. Even if it’s something as simple as treating yourself to dinner, or maybe going on a vacation, or maybe buying that pair of shoes… set a reward for yourself and CELEBRATE when you achieve certain goals! Those are the things that will motivate you to keep going!