Almost 100 million people will make a financial resolution this coming year. But when you pair this figure with unsettling statistics about the failure rate for New Year’s resolutions, the outcome doesn’t look so good.
Why do people have such a hard time setting and reaching our long-term money goals? At Payactiv, financial wellness is at the heart of what we do—which is why many people on our team are keen on setting their own healthy financial goals. We’re here to share an easy guide to achieving your money goals, whatever they may be, in three key steps.
Before we go any further, it’s important to make sure you’re setting the right goals. Otherwise, you find yourself frustrated and straining for unattainable targets.
You likely already have some idea of what’s important to you, whether it’s saving for a down payment for your house or improving your credit score. From there, it’s time to apply the classic SMART goal strategy. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.
In other words, rather than “get a perfect credit score,” you may want to “raise my credit score by 100 points in the next three months.”
Don’t forget to write your goals down for best results, keeping them somewhere you’ll see them every day.
Now that you know how to set better goals, let’s dive into strategies for reaching them.
Once you have your goal in place, the first step is to diagnose where you currently stand.
If you haven’t already, start sifting through your existing accounts to understand how far you have to go, and what you’ll need to do to get there. Where is your money going, and where should you divert it?
Keep in mind that, while you’ll need to do this early on, tracking your finances isn’t a one-and-done procedure. You’ll also need to track what you spend on an ongoing basis if you plan to achieve your long-term money saving goals. Tracking your spending helps you stay on target over time, as there can be a big difference between how much you think you spend and what you actually spend.
You can track your spending through the online client portal of your bank or lender, or you can use a simple spreadsheet or notebook. You can also use a money goals tracker as well.
One last tip here: stop using cash. With electronic records on your debit or credit card statements, you can track transactions more easily. If you must use cash, try using the envelope system to spend only as much money as you’ve put into a dedicated envelope.
We know what you’re thinking: this is much easier said than done! However, there are two parts to this step, and many ways to tackle either or both of them as your situation allows.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the more money you make, the more money you can put toward your goals. This doesn’t mean hunting for a top-paying job or demanding a promotion, though either option would be helpful if possible. For some goals, you may only need to share your skills with a side hustle, like freelance graphic design or editing. You can take a part-time gig as a delivery driver or rent out a spare room with Airbnb.
Even a little extra cash can help you work toward your goals, reaching them more quickly than you might have without it.
Don’t forget to pair your additional cash with less spending! Use simple best practices to save more money: cut your cable, make your own meals instead of eating out, or reconsider your transportation options. Even small changes can save a lot of money over time.
According to a famous saying, there’s only one way to eat an elephant: one bite at a time.
In other words, it’s hard to trudge along day by day for a goal that will take years to come to fruition. That’s why it pays—sometimes literally—to have multiple plans in place. When you have larger long-term goals, break them down into smaller, bite-sized pieces that will help you manage your monthly, weekly, and even daily strategies.
For example, if you’re saving up for a down payment for a new house, how much should you have saved every passing month? How much of each paycheck should go toward it?
Don’t forget to also create “rainy day” and “surprise windfall” strategies. Not everything will go as expected, which is why the best plans account for unforeseen circumstances.
Know what you can do to keep on track, including taking advantage of Earned Wage Access (EWA) solutions like ours or creating an account for emergency expenses. You should also know how to handle unexpected windfalls: will you put a surprise work bonus toward your debts, or will you invest it? Having a plan for these events can help keep you on the path to financial success.
At the end of the day, reaching your money goals is as much about planning as it is about following through on that plan. With the right goals, budget, and mindset, you can create spending and saving routines that solidify as habits—one of the best ways to reach your long-term goals.
Interested in finding more information to bring you closer to financial wellness? Check out our financial wellness platform for holistic, well-rounded help as you take your first steps.