Originally posted on January 15, 2020
Note: Float Finance is an ongoing series breaking down the basics of personal finance and money.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at how to effectively set financial goals and sharing a tool you can use to prioritize how to use your money.
Think about the kind of future that you want for yourself and your loved ones. What would you like your life to look and feel like in the next few months? How about the next five, ten and twenty years?
By imagining your ideal future and outlining your hopes and dreams, you’ll be better placed to define your goals. You need to know what your goals are so that you can visualize how you plan to reach them.
Setting goals will also help you to prioritize how you’re going to use your money so that you’re putting it towards what matters most to you. It can also help you to track and measure your progress towards achieving those desires.
Some goals are short-term and can take a just a week, a month, or even a few months to obtain. Other goals are long-term that may take many months or years to reach. Either way, it’s important to track them.
There are a bunch of different frameworks that are used for setting goals, but we recommend using the SMART method. SMART is an acronym for: specific, measurable, action-oriented, reachable, and time-bound. Here’s what that looks like in practice.
Ask yourself: “What do I want to accomplish? Why is this important to me? Is this something I really want or is it just ‘nice to have’?”
Defining your goal will give you a better chance of meeting it because you have something concrete to aim for. Your goals are more likely to be successful if they’re rooted in your values. Set goals that matter to you and which are a priority in your life. This makes it more likely that you’ll continue to work towards them.
Ask yourself: “How much? How many? How will I know when I’ve met the goal? Can I put a number to it?”
Quantifying your goal using numbers helps you to track progress and will help to keep you on track.
Ask yourself: “What specific actions or activities do I need to complete to meet this goal?”
This might include actions like changing an existing spending habit, setting up a new savings account or regularly checking your credit card balance.
Ask yourself: “Is this goal something I can actually reach or achieve?”
Your goals don’t need to be easy, but they should definitely be realistic. If you have lots of credit card debt, a good short term goal might be “to make the minimum payments on time”. “Save $10,000” might be less realistic for a short-term goal, but it could still work well for a long-term goal.
Ask yourself: “When will I reach this goal? How long will it take?”
Goals should have a clearly-defined time frame. This helps you to ensure that you’re on track and to hold yourself accountable.
Example SMART goals
Let’s walk through a quick example of how you can put SMART goals to use.
Imagine that it’s almost summer and Bridget wants to start planning for the next school year. She knows that she’ll need extra funds for school supplies and clothing when her kids start school in August, which is about 15 weeks away.
Each year, she tries to pull together the money a week or two before she needs it, but this is challenging and often stresses her out. This year, she’s determined to do things differently.
She starts by trying to pick up extra shifts at her job, but they aren’t always available. Bridget remembers spending $300 last year on school supplies and clothes. She divides $300 by 15 to discover that she needs to save about $20 a week until school starts. Maria makes $10 an hour at her job.
Here’s an example of the kinds of SMART goals that Maria could set.
Based on the statements that she’s written out, Maria’s goal could be: “To up an extra 2-hour shift each week so I can save $20 per week for the next 15 weeks to pay for school supplies for my kids.”
We hope that you’ve found this installment of Float Finance useful. Be sure to share any feedback that you have and to keep your eyes peeled on FloatMe.io for further updates!