Achieve Any Financial Goal with These 3 Steps

by Travis Pizel · 16 comments

I admit it: I get caught up in the whole New Year’s resolution thing.

When January 1st rolls around, I want to use the dawn of a fresh year as a breaking point for old habits, and the start of great and wonderful things to better myself and my life.

For many years, I resolved to do better with my finances. Unfortunately, I often found my resolution broken before the first month — or even the first week — came to a close.

The good news is that during my four and a half year journey to pay off my credit card debt, I learned the secrets to achieving any financial goal. You’d be surprised at how simple these three steps are:

1. Define the Goal

To achieve great things, your goal must be clear. In order to properly define a goal, it has to be:

  • Specific: Part of the problem with making a new year’s resolution is that they’re often too generic. For example, what exactly did I mean by, “I want to do better with my finances?” Instead, your goal should be something like, “Create a budget, tracking my income and expenses, on the first of every month.”
  • Realistic: I also had to come to terms with my own limitations. Coming from a place where we’d never even created single budget, it would be unrealistic to hope to fund a $15,000 emergency fund by the end of the year. I knew that the first thing I needed to do was live within my means, THEN I could adjust my goals to be more sophisticated.
  • Trackable: If I say I’m going to create my budget on the first of the month, and I haven’t done it by the 5th, I know I’m not on track. Time to sit down and make it happen.

2. Plan for Success

I’m currently working on a goal to fund my emergency fund with $1,000 by the end of February. When I first started working towards this goal, I determined I would have to put $100 per paycheck into my emergency fund.

Remember: a goal without a clear path to achieving it doesn’t have a good chance of succeeding.

3. Execute

If you’ve done the first two steps properly, what needs to be done here should be very clear. It could be sitting down on the 1st of the month and making a budget, transferring $100 to a separate account on pay day, or whatever action is necessary to keep moving towards your goal.

While your path should be clearly defined by now, this is the part that requires dedication and willpower. The good news is: if your goal is specific, realistic, and trackable, you’ll be motivated by seeing steady progress towards it.

Achieving financial goals isn’t easy, but these three steps provide a framework to give you the best chance of success.

Are you currently working towards any financial goals? Do you have anything to add that could benefit your fellow readers?

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Candace says:

    My goal was to save $1000.00 emergency fund, and I did it! I opened up a separate checking account with $25.00 and every payday I would transfer a little at a time and more each time. It got easier over time and fun watching my money grow. With that cushion I was able to pay off debts in collections and clean up my credit file. I’m hoping to buy a home this year and the saving freed me up to clear up my debt with confidence with that money set aside. I plan to continue saving and reach toward my homebuying goal. I encourage everybody to start where you can, once you take that step that’s the hard part, you’ll move toward your goal. Good luck! Happy saving!

    • That’s a great success story, Candace! $25 may not seem like a lot at the time, but it sure adds up quick, doesn’t it? Congratulations to you, and I hope you achieve your goal of home ownership – please come back and let us know how your doing towards that goal from time to time, Candace!

  • Awesome advice! It’s great that it’s broken down so simply. We’re always focused on helping our Credit Union members reach financial success, and every tip helps.

  • Matthew says:

    Travis – My biggest problem was always “#1 – Define the Goal.” I would always want to make financial changes and be ready to execute but I really had no clear initiatives or plan-of-action. I found this often lead to the goals going to the wayside. This year I will be following more specific plans, I really like the advice of making sure they are trackable as well.

    Thanks for the insight!

    • You’re welcome, Matthew – I’m glad that you were able to take something positive from the post. A lot of people skip #1…..myself included. Sometimes I have a general idea of what I want to accomplish, but we truly have to have it CLEARLY defined so we know exactly where we are going! Thanks for reading!

  • Write a budget for the whole year, divide it in each month so you can follow it down to the penny. Set a goal for finding some sort of extra income for the year, as they are the real saving money in bonus form.

    • Good advice, Property marbella……each month would have to be reviewed as they came, though, as things do change over time, and things come up that necessitate a little flexibility in the budgeting process. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • ian@buyingbrain says:

    Some good advice there Travis. 2014 will be a great financial year for anyone who takes these steps and really makes the effort

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I plan on making 2014 a GREAT year for our finances, Ian. Between completing our debt management plan, refinancing our mortgage, and a few other things we’ve got planned, our finances are going to be ready to ROCK!

  • Phil says:

    It is all about the budget. I have been doing one since spring of 2007. As a school teacher, we are finally starting to see the fruits of our labor. At first it sucks, because you feel like you are telling yourself “no”. No, you cannot have a car payment. No you cannot buy that tool set at Costco. No, no, no.

    But what you are really telling yourself is yes. Later on you say, Yes, I can write a check for that Land Cruiser and Mazda 5. Yes I can buy that tool set. And even later you are telling yourself yes in even more significant ways. Yes, I can retire 5 years sooner than peers my same age and travel the world (which I plan on doing).

    But none of that happens until you create a budget…or as Dave Ramsey says, “make every dollar behave.”

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I love that quote from Dave Ramsey, Phil, thanks for sharing! I know all about saying “No”….we’ve been doing it for 4 and a half years as we pay down our debt. Now that we’re on the cusp of having that mountain of credit card debt gone, I’m looking forward to saying “Yes” every now and again. 🙂

  • Brad Chaffee says:

    We all find ourselves in the hamster wheel of life but following these tips to define and execute your goals is pretty important! If I reflect on anything I’ve accomplished the one thing they all have in common is that I had a detailed but realistic plan to achieve them. Great post Travis!

    • Travis Pizel says:

      Thank you, Brad! With our a roadmap, how will we ever find our way? That’s how I look at it…great to hear from you buddy!

  • Great overview Travis! I think that first step is so vital, yet so many (including myself at times), fail at doing that and guess what…we fail. 🙂 I find that having that quantifiable goal to work towards does help out in many cases as it gives me something I want to specifically hit. Something else I would add is look for ways to keep yourself accountable, especially by telling someone else what your goal is. I hate failing and if someone is going to keep me accountable, then that’ll be one more encouragement to me not to give up.

    • Travis Pizel says:

      I agree that having someone to be accountable to is very important. You have to come clean to that person if you haven’t been doing what you said you’d do, AND it’s someone you can celebrate with when you do! But in the end (as a self motivator), you do have to dig inside of you and find the will to make it happen. Thanks for reading, John!

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