Step One on the Path to Saving Money: Set Goals

From the original article “Saving Money…The Hard Way Made Easy,” we will examine each of the five different components in expanded detail. The first of these components, “set goals,” is a basic concept for anything you are striving for in life, and it is no different for financial goals. Yes, we all say that we want to have more money, which leads to more independence, and more opportunity. But do we ever quantify the amount of money we want? Or, do we just say “we want to be rich,” or “we want to be able to retire early,” or any of the myriad of other options? Let’s take some goal setting tips and apply them to saving money.

Take the time to write your goals down on paper. When we write down our goals, we are more apt to work towards them, to keep them in mind, and to visualize them. And after you’ve written them down, post them somewhere. As silly as it sounds, my goals for the year – financial, fitness, relationships, etc., are posted right on my bureau mirror in my bedroom. It forces me to look at them every day. It’s also important to be specific when setting goals. “I want to be rich” or “I want to retire early,” are good mental images to have, but those statements carry different meanings to different people. How much do you want to save per week? Per month? How much do you want to see in your bank account at the end of the year? Specific milestones garner specific results more often than general milestones.

Saving money takes effort. There’s no doubt about it, it’s not easy to save money. It takes discipline and sacrifice. Sometimes, it’s a matter of logistics – the money just doesn’t stretch as far from paycheck to paycheck. As Steve Azar sings in “Moo La Moo,” “there’s too much month at the end of the money.” Even those thrifty savers with the best of intentions often miss out on savings because of bills. Don’t be defeated! As my dad always tells me, “don’t take food off the table.” Live with it and make a better plan for the next cycle of paychecks and bills, if you can. Another battle is always raging, of course, with that dark villain to your intentions: Temptation. The American Dream ingrained in most of us is that if you work hard, you can reach your goals and get what you want. Temptation fights Discipline & Sacrifice on every playing field. This is where you need to keep that “I want” voice at bay! The more you stand tall against Temptation, the better your odds of seeing your savings goals become a reality.

Focus on why you are setting financial goals. There are obvious reasons for saving money, and not so obvious reasons. Why are you saving? For a new car? A new house? A child’s college education? Early retirement? Ease of mind? Don’t we all wish we could meet those goals consistently?! Of course, when you add your personal philosophy to the mix, it can get confusing! For example, if your life’s philosophy is “live for today,” then it would be in direct conflict with setting any savings goals for the future. Focus on your savings objectives, and make sure your goals match your lifestyle and direction.

A major portion of setting and achieving goals is determination. Setting goals and sticking to them is not always easy. Here’s where you have to keep a couple of things in mind: be positive, and believe in your direction. There will be times, no doubt, that you will not reach your goals. What matters is being positive about what you have accomplished towards your savings. Don’t throw in the towel! Get back in the ring and try again! By believing in your direction and staying the course, you will continue to work on your savings plan and reaching the goals you’ve set.

The ironic thing is, once you reach your goals, you’ll be inspired to save more! Each milestone along the way will serve as an affirmation of your savings accomplishments. Celebrate with a wry smile to your friends in arms – Discipline & Sacrifice. Eventually, you will be able to take down your original goals posting, and write a new savings goal to achieve!