January seems to be the month of good intentions for self-improvement. No other month leads so many people to set new goals, and all that soul searching can inspire us to do a better job with our money.
But how often have you started the year with high hopes of making progress with your finances only to drift off course by February? To be sure you actually follow through in 2017, here are five tips for setting achievable goals.
1. Begin With a Dream
The new year is a great time to dream! Your money wishes will never come true if you don’t even know what they are. In a year, where would you like to be with your money, your career or your marriage? Begin by brainstorming about the possibilities and the desires of your heart. If you’re married, make sure to include your spouse and dream together! You’ll find that with both of you working toward a goal, you’ll get there even faster.
2. Identify Steps You Can Take and Write Them Down
To really get a handle on your money, you have to identify where you’re struggling and decide on some specific steps to take. As you’re thinking about your goals, put those ideas in writing. Here are a few to consider:
Saving for emergencies
Paying off debt
Thinking about retirement
3. Choose Several Goals and Set Specific Dates to Achieve Them
Whatever goals you set for yourself, be sure some of them are things you can realistically achieve early in the year, like a certain payment amount in February or a certain savings level by March. When you’re changing old habits, you need a few quick wins to build momentum.
By tying your money goals to specific dollar amounts and setting deadlines to reach them, you’re giving yourself a way to measure progress—and motivation to stay focused as the year goes by.
4. Do This for You
It’s essential that you set goals for yourself rather than allowing your friends or family to set them for you. Sure, a family member or coworker can be a great accountability partner along the way, but you’ll never meet any goal unless it’s a personal dream.
5. Celebrate the Wins All Year Long
Here’s the best step so far. When you hit that first money goal for the year, celebrate it! No matter what else happens, you have improved your finances. Plan to review your progress at least once a month, adjusting your budget where necessary to keep on track with the rest of the year’s goals. And at the end of the year, you can look back and total your annual turnaround by adding the amount of debt paid off to the amount of money saved. Anything you don’t complete this year rolls over to next year’s list.