Here’s how to smash your money goals
Updated: May 18
Are you dreaming of a trip to Indonesia or saving for further education? Well, reaching such aspirations tends to come hand in hand with setting solid saving goals. But sometimes the hardest thing about saving money is just getting started. Following these nine steps, you can set yourself up for a solid start – right through to the finish line.
1. Make a budget
How can you know what amount to save without getting into the nitty-gritty of your finances? You can’t. Start by analysing your current financial situation. If you want to save for a trip to Vietnam or a new wardrobe, how much money do you actually need to make it happen? To reach a savings goal (and in record time), make a budget. Having a plan for your money and tracking its progress will show you exactly how much money you have and where it’s going.
Ask yourself the tough questions: where do you usually overspend and can you afford to cut back on some of your usual expenses? This will help to pinpoint areas where it would be possible to save money, thereby helping to reach savings goals even faster. You can’t stop paying for your mortgage, but you can try cooking more often instead of ordering ready meals from fancy restaurants.
2. Be SMART
Make it a challenge, but keep it achievable. Apply a SMART- goal strategy. That is, make certain your money goal is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely. SMART. When setting these saving milestones, ask yourself why you want to achieve each one. Is it for yourself, or for someone else, or just because you think you're supposed to?
You might have 10 different things you want to do with your money. And that’s great! Because it shows that you’re really passionate about getting ahead financially. The best way to reach your financial goals is by making a plan that prioritises your goals. When you examine your own goals, you’ll discover that some are broad and far-reaching, while others are narrow in scope. Your goals can be separated into three categories of time:
Short-term financial goals take under one year to achieve. Examples may include taking a vacation or buying a new washing machine.
Mid-term financial goals can’t be achieved right away but shouldn’t take too many years to accomplish. Examples may include purchasing a car, finishing a degree or certification, or paying off your debts.
Long-term financial goals (over five years) may take several years to accomplish and, as a result, require longer commitments and often more money. Examples might include buying a home, saving for a child’s college education, or a comfortable retirement.
The goal-setting process involves deciding what goals you intend to reach; estimating the amount of money needed and other resources required; and planning how long you expect to take to reach each of your goals.
4. Set yourself a deadline
Start by stating a time period of when you want to complete your goal. For instance, instead of saying “I want to be debt free.” You could say “I want to be debt free by December 2020.” Another example is instead of saying “I want to have £15,000 in savings” you could say “I want to have £15,000 in savings by December 31st.” You need a deadline that you have set with intention. Specific goals that are time-bound provide you with the opportunity to calculate how much money you need to save or pay towards debt between now and your goal date.
5. Visualise your goal
Here’s a fun one that’s easy, too. They say seeing is believing, and this couldn’t be more true for money goals. A great way to visualise goals is to create a savings chart you can display somewhere prominent (on the fridge is always a handy spot). Create a table and put a picture of what you are saving for alongside a box for every week you’ll need to save until you’ve reached your goal. Then each week you can colour in the box with a crayon, as you move closer to your savings goal. That way you can track your own progress easily by simply counting the number of boxes filled in, to see how much you have saved up to that point and the number of weeks still to go.
6. Practise Money Zen
Focus on the process not just the end game. Learning to enjoy saving money can take some getting used to. It is a gradual process with bumps along the way but you should think of it as training for a race. Of course, being able to buy your first laptop or paying off your college fees, sounds like a great achievement but think about all that you’re gaining along the way, too: greater confidence in your budgeting skills, and more freedom to do what you really want with your money.
7. Find a financial Buddy or share your money goal on social media
A financial buddy can be anyone — a parent, a spouse, a friend or a co-worker. Ask that person to check in on you and your goals. Share your progress, successes, and failures with them. You’re more likely to keep going if you have someone with you along the way! Whomever you consider, make sure that person has certain qualities. Choose someone who:
You like and trust. You may be sharing intimate money details with your buddy, so you want to make sure you're comfortable with the person.
Will set a good example. This person doesn't have to be a money expert, but he or she needs to share your motivation and readiness to stick to your respective money goals.
Will understand your resolutions. You don't have to be working toward the same goals, but you do need your buddy to know your desired outcomes and be supportive of your efforts.
Will keep you honest. Your buddy should feel he or she can call you out if you become distracted or less committed to your goals.
Alternatively, you can share your goals on social media to stay accountable and transparent about where you stand with your budget goals.
8. Surround yourself with other savers
I’m sure you’ve heard the famous saying “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This is such a true statement! If you surround yourself with people that are spending money like crazy, you’ll start wanting to spend money as well.
If you’re following influencers on Instagram that are constantly telling you why you need the newest product, you’re going to want the product. Instead, guard yourself! You don’t need to follow people on social media that make you want to spend money. And you can limit conversations with friends who are always telling you about the new item they bought.
Instead, surround yourself with other people who like saving money, not spending it. Search on Instagram or Facebook for people who have made it their mission to inspire others to save money. Consume their content! You’ll be surprised how much it helps you want to start saving money, not spend it.
9. Review your progress and celebrate your success, but don’t be too hard on yourself
In six months or a year, let’s review those goals. And when you achieve a goal, let yourself relax, give yourself credit, and celebrate how awesome you are when you are able to check a goal off your list! Then you can set new ones to work towards.
However, don't be too hard on yourself if you fail to meet your money saving goal just in time. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming. When something doesn’t work or you fail big-time, it’s tempting to just give up and not take another step. You tell yourself that you’ll never be able to save money or you’ll never be able to get out of debt or some other negative self-talk. And that kind of thinking doesn’t help.
Mistakes can actually be a great thing if you’re willing to learn from them. So if you screw up and you don’t hit your money goal for a certain month or for the year or whatever it is, don’t panic. And don’t beat yourself up either. Regroup, review your goals and refocus on what you need to do next to get back on track.