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As a new year arrives, many people begin to make a list of goals to achieve in the coming months, whether it’s to eat better and exercise more, learn a new hobby, or take steps to get their finances in order. While we all start with the best of intentions, many times our progress loses momentum as the year gets rolling. For many people, this could mean their resolutions will lose steam quickly.
So should we even bother setting financial goals for the year? Yes, definitely. Goal setting is important, it just may take changing up your approach and choosing short-term, attainable goals to keep you motivated to the finish line. Here are some actions you can take in January to improve your financial life and set a positive, inspiring tone for the rest of the year.
Short-term goals are typically actions you want to accomplish very soon, often within a month or less. Many times, you can set several short-term objectives that all support a larger, long-term goal. For example, if you wish to take a vacation to Europe before the end of the year, you could break it down into several, smaller goals. This could include creating a separate vacation savings account, setting up automatic monthly deposits, and reviewing your budget to eliminate unnecessary costs that could help put more money toward the vacation.
Setting bite-size tasks may allow you to boost the potential of reaching these goals, helping you regularly experience feelings of accomplishment and being further inspired to keep going throughout the year. This can be especially helpful when working toward financial goals. Progress can be easily measured and every small action can have an incredible impact on your overall financial well-being. For January, set deadlines for each smaller goal and focus on the individual target one at a time. As you reach that milestone, move on to the next. This makes financial goals much less overwhelming and puts you in a better position for success.
Here are several short-term financial goals to accomplish this month and how you can check them off the list successfully.
Your budget is the backbone of your financial life and can be instrumental in helping you accomplish your goals. If you do not have a budget in place, set that as a goal for January. Whether you choose a pen and paper, spreadsheet, or online app, enter your monthly income and expenses and take a closer look at your spending and saving habits. Is there at least one non-essential expense you could cut? Could you put a few more dollars towards savings if you moved a few things around? Taking time to set priorities and expectations for the month using your budget can help keep you on track for the rest of the year.
With the average household in the U.S. facing $8,006 in credit card debt, many people put paying down the balance as a top priority. Especially after a potentially expensive holiday season, the amount you owe may have quickly increased. To get back to zero and start the New Year off right, add this task to your short-term goals for January. Look at your budget and see where income could be allocated to paying down debt instead. Could you forgo ordering take-out for the month or eliminate a streaming service and put that money toward your credit card balance? Is it possible to set up a work carpool, helping to put money you normally spend on gas toward your debt amount? Even if it’s small behaviors you can do each week that will help lower the outstanding balance, you’ll feel more and more encouraged as that total number drops.
To help ensure you’re on the right track for the year, consider meeting with your financial advisor to review your current strategy, make any updates, and devise a game plan for specific goals for the year. Since your goals from the start of last year may be very different from the beginning of this one, giving your financial plan a refresh can be very beneficial. You may be able to eliminate goals, revise the timeline for others, and add new ideas for the coming year.
If you do not have a financial advisor, finding an agent is an excellent goal for January. Seeking guidance and professional advice can help lower stress about your financial situation, simplify more complex topics, and reveal financial opportunities that you may not have been aware of yourself. Your financial advisor can also be a valuable resource as you create your smaller, short-term goals and how they can act as stepping stones in your overall financial roadmap.
If you were feeling the financial strain from end-of-year expenses, January is a time for new beginnings by taking steps to replenish your savings. Working a savings category into your monthly budget allows you to hold yourself accountable and easily keep track of your progress. Creating an emergency fund and building it up throughout the year can offer significant peace of mind because being prepared financially for an emergency can help lower the strain when a stressful event occurs. Just like many other financial ambitions, breaking down your saving goals into smaller tasks you can achieve in the short term can keep you motivated and moving forward.
Short-term saving goals are similar to your other short-term financial goals, where your target date falls within a month to a 3-month window. Perhaps you would like to buy a new car, save for a family vacation, or start an emergency fund. You can set short-term saving goals specific to your budget and choose one or more goals based on your financial situation. You may decide a new car is the highest priority and choose to focus on funding this goal for January. A general rule is to save 10 to 15% of your paycheck each pay period toward your saving goal. If that is not feasible, take a look at your budget to find an amount that makes the most sense or see if you can make any changes that would free up that portion of your income.
Along with working your saving goals into your budget and cutting expenses, you may also consider opening a high-interest saving account through an online bank. These accounts often let you earn more interest than traditional accounts, helping each dollar you save to go even further. Another tactic includes setting up automatic contributions where a specific amount is transferred from your checking to your savings account each month. Once set up, you won’t have to worry about setting aside that amount or accidentally spending it on something else.
January offers an opportunity to hit the reset button and replace unhealthy financial habits with beneficial ones. When it comes to your resolutions and financial goals, remember that small victories are worth celebrating. Even if you have a long list of what you’d like to accomplish this year, it does not need to be achieved all at once, and focusing your attention on smaller, more attainable tasks may be just the ticket to successfully hitting your targets. Slow and steady often wins the race and this approach will allow you to establish a pace that is sustainable all year long, instead of setting goals that cause you to quickly burn out and give up early on.
>After you create your list of financial resolutions, assign one or more to each month. Since the amount of each saving goal will likely vary, indicate the total amount needed for the particular month and how that will work into your budget. Keep in mind that financial planning is fluid and you can always make adjustments based on life events, emergencies, or financial setbacks. If you need to switch to a smaller savings goal during a tougher month, permit yourself to do so. One of the most helpful ways for staying motivated is to remain positive and applaud yourself for taking steps to improve your financial life.
Setting financial goals and creating a plan to reach those targets can help you adopt a healthier money mindset—bringing positive financial habits and greater accountability into your life. All larger, long-term goals can be broken down into smaller ones, allowing you to take one step at a time in the right direction. If you want to fund your retirement or protect your loved ones with life insurance, even setting a goal of researching these topics can get the ball rolling. Each goal can build upon the last, moving you closer and closer to your final destination.
Assigning monthly goals and the action steps you’re going to take can help prevent you from feeling stuck and give you the momentum you need to reach your goal successfully.