2013 is nearly half over, which means this is about the time many people start to think back to their New Year’s resolutions. If you’re like most folks chances are some of them have gone well, but most of them were forgotten within weeks. Life is busy, and it continues on regardless of how closely it sticks to your plans. It’s all about setting realistic goals and keeping your expectations in line with them. But when it comes to your finances, baby steps may not feel like enough. Most Americans are deeply in debt, living paycheck to paycheck with no clear idea of how that might ever change. Before it can, you’re going to have to set some goals. Yet if they go like your resolutions did, that just won’t cut it. So here are five tips for achieving your financial goals.
Even though you are going to be focused on practical improvements, start the process off by dreaming as big as possible. Write out a complete vision for your financial future, with as many details as you can come up with. Then break it down into yearly goals. If you could look back at this vision twelve months from now, what changes would constitute success? Even the pie in the sky thinking is crucial, because you’ll need to bring that inspiration into your daily tasks if you hope to succeed.
Now that you’ve got the big vision on paper, break it down into very specific steps. The harder you work on this step, the easier the process will be. It’s impossible to keep your brain wrapped around your huge goals all the time. Try to picture having a million dollars in the bank when right now you can’t even pay off a credit card. It won’t go very well. So give yourself a step by step, concrete list of tasks that you’ll be able to follow on a daily basis.
When you begin your week with this new focus, make sure you are immediately working on one fun goal and one goal that’s more serious. This balancing act will help to keep you inspired in the long term. That’s why most weight loss or exercise resolutions fall flat. With a bit of fun mixed in with the effort you’ll always find some instant gratification to reward you for buckling down.
You’ll also want to make sure that the first goals you tackle are relatively small. They should certainly create an impact you can feel or practically see, in the form of more money in the bank or a smaller balance on that credit card bill. But you want to set yourself up for success right away. After you get a couple of these ‘wins’ under your belt, you’ll be much more likely to stick with your plan for the duration.
Finally, don’t be afraid to seek out as much help and support as you need. Financial changes involve a lot more than just saving a bit of money. There are mental, emotional and psychological aspects, not to mention the need to overcome a lifetime of ingrained choices. So set up a support system. You’ll want someone you trust to help hold you accountable, who you can go to when you’re feeling down about the process. It’s almost like having a sponsor in a drug treatment program. They may talk you off the ledge when you’re ready to throw in the towel, or simply suggest better options for purchases you’re considering. If you’ve got friends sending you links to sites like greatdeals.com because they want to see you succeed as much as you do, you’ll know you’re on the right track.