Financial goal setting is vital to achieving the big vision you have for your life. The dreams and desires you have are usually only achievable if you have the financial capacity to make them happen. And having that capacity means creating a roadmap of how you'll get there — hence, the importance of goals.
The right goals will help you track the progress you make towards your big vision. If you don't have goals, you don't know what to track. And there's nothing like achieving a goal to get you excited about what you can accomplish next. It's like fuel to your fire!
You can set new financial goals at any time and for any reason. You just need to be aware of certain key money truths and have the drive to accomplish the goals you set. So let’s talk about exactly how to set financial goals the right way!
The 3 rules of financial goal setting
When starting on this journey, it’s important to set goals. There are three key things to keep in mind when learning how to set financial goals. Your financial goals should be:
If you can’t measure it, how will you gauge your progress? You need to clearly state what you want to achieve, by when, and what you need to do each week or month to reach your end goal.
Don’t create unachievable odds for yourself. Yes, your goals should be challenging and outside of your comfort zone, but no, they should not be ridiculous or unattainable. If saving $5,000 a year is easy for you, then why not make your goal $10,000?
But setting a goal to save $1,000,000 when saving $10,000 is already a stretch… well, you catch my drift!
3. Written Down
The most important step of financial goal setting is actually writing your goals down! There's some magic to putting pen to paper and writing down what you want to accomplish. Writing your goals down gives them life, and they’ll become even more significant when you see them on paper.
Plan for your financial goals
Once you set your goals, it’s time to break each goal down. Let’s say your goal is to save an extra $10,000 over the next 12 months. It could be money for a down payment on a house, to buy a car, or to start a business.
Whatever it is you are planning for, you’ll need to save about $830 each month. Well, you already know that money isn’t just going to fall in your lap. In order to actually accomplish this goal, you’ll need to fit it into your budget, figure out where to cut back, think of ways to possibly increase your income, and make consistent deposits to maximize your results.
These steps add massive value towards your $10,000 savings goals you want to accomplish. But knowing all of this, how do you ACTUALLY DO IT?
Answer: Pick one thing you will do or one action you will take at the beginning of every single day that will get you closer to your goal. This one thing doesn’t need to be the same thing everything, and some examples could include:
- Making a savings deposit
- Setting up automatic transfers
- Reading a financial book
- Checking in your accountability partner
- Having a no-spend day
Doing this daily one thing, added together over time, will lead you directly to your goals even if you experience setbacks. Here are some specific examples of financial goals. (You can also check out our tips on creating a 5-year plan!)
How to set financial goals that are easy to achieve
Unfortunately, so many people give up on their goals before they even have a chance to make progress. Accomplishing your goals is often easier said than done.
But there’s no reason why it can’t actually be easy. You just need to know how to work toward your goals. People who are successful in achieving their financial goals practice the following.
Focus on your schedule of actions, not the goal deadline
Sometimes focusing on a deadline can make it seem like what you want to accomplish is so far away that you have plenty of time to get things done “later.” But then, all of a sudden, it’s so close that it’s too late to do anything.
When you focus on your schedule of actions for the big goals (that you’ve broken down into chunks and are tracking daily, weekly, monthly, or quarterly), you are more likely to do what’s required to accomplish your goals as a result of your consistent actions. This leads me to my next point.
Focus on the actions, not the performance
The actions you take carry more weight than the actual performance. Why? Well, the performance might not always be perfect, but the actions you take consistently (like budgeting, saving money on a schedule, making consistent payments towards your credit debt or student loans, etc.) will help you get better each time and improve your overall performance.
And that’s it. These two things can make all the difference when it comes to making those goals you’ve set super easy to accomplish.
Get started with our financial goal setting worksheets
Now that you know how to set financial goals, you can use our free financial goal setting and other worksheets to get started! They include sections for short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals.
Using our financial goal setting worksheets will also help you focus and stay the course to achieve your goals!
How to stay motivated when working toward your financial goals
So now that you are ready to start financial goal setting, you need to know how to stay motivated towards those goals! It is easy to set a goal or think of a goal, but we all seem to lose the necessary motivation to complete and fulfill these goals as time passes. And the truth is, motivation is key to your success!
Although there will be setbacks and failures when it comes to your financial goals, it’s important to keep yourself motivated. Here are some tips to keep you on track and focused despite what might come your way on your journey to financial success.
1. Create a reward system
Once you define your financial goals, you might fall into the trap of working excessively hard to achieve them. You may lose sleep and forgo other activities. You might even completely stop indulging in shopping, entertainment, or food once you set out on your goal.
And even if you manage to do this for a while, you may end up feeling burnt out and ready to overindulge before you know it. Aim for steady change a little at a time with rewards built-in rather than radically overhauling your entire life. Reward yourself for the small wins when you achieve them.
Instead of forgoing all of your favorite things, set aside a portion of your budget devoted to a small splurge now and then. At the end of the month or week, if you have stuck to your financial goals, you can then indulge.
This reward system will help you avoid splurging if you’re getting frustrated during a rough patch in your journey. It will also make saving more rewarding, rather than a means of self-punishment for any previous financial mistakes you feel you have made.
2. Surround yourself with like-minded people
If you are setting out to save a certain amount of money or pay off a certain amount of debt, it’s best to be around people who are also in it to win it, just like you. This is one of the best ways if you’re looking for how to stay motivated. These people can keep you accountable for your financial goals.
A great place to seek out like-minded people is right here with Clever Girl Finance! Here, you will find a plethora of women seeking a community of people with the same financial goals as yourself.
You’d also be surprised how many people already in your network are looking to achieve the same financial goals as yourself. You can host a meeting to get others together. It all starts with one person.
3. Seek out personal finance information
One way to gain knowledge about finance, aside from trial and error, is by reading personal finance books. Learning from the mistakes others have made is much more beneficial than having to learn the hard way. That’s why these books are available.
Another way to gain knowledge is to seek out personal finance events. You will be more engaged at these events and meet others with the same goals and outlooks about money as you (again, more accountability).
These personal finance experts will be the first to tell you to focus on your “why.” If you focus on the “why” of your goal and how it will positively impact your life and well-being, you will be much more likely to stick with your financial goals.
Try to steer your focus away from the money or making more money. Instead, have any additional money you make be the byproduct of your goal. Simply focusing on how much money you would like to make, rather than a better life, is the quickest way to burning out.
4. Start small
We’ve all heard of the snowball effect! For instance, although it may make sense to tackle your largest debts first, doing it in reverse is great for your psyche because you’ll get to celebrate those small wins much faster than if you started with your highest balances. This, in turn, will keep you motivated and excited to go after your bigger financial goals.
So as you start to think of your goals, consider how you can set them up so you can reap the motivational benefit of achieving those small wins. Living stingy (being more mindful of how you spend money) for a little while can help you ramp up those small wins!
Financial goal setting will lead you to success
Setting financial goals the right way and going after them is your opportunity to achieve your wildest dreams, blow your expectations out of the water, and make real progress towards your financial success.
Use these tips and our financial goal setting worksheets to work towards your goals. Here's to setting some amazing goals and setting yourself free from the things holding you back — Let's go!