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The Bigger Picture: Creating Goals is Key to Budget Planning Success

Reading time: 3 Minutes

March 26th, 2021

On the list of things most people don't look forward to, money management tends to rank pretty high. But learning how to budget doesn't have to mean living a life of sacrifice. Budget planning can actually be fun and fulfilling when you realize that what you're doing is daydreaming about a better future, then creating goals and sticking to them to make that future happen.

But before you even begin to create a budget, think about why you are doing it...not just from a 'I want to buy a car' or 'take a vacation' perspective. The goal is to think beyond that by looking at your budget with a bigger picture in mind.

Let's work through this together.

Visualizing Your Bigger Picture

Before you create your budget, take a step back and think deeply about what you want your life to look like. What are your life goals? Why have you set these goals? And how will your life be different once you've achieved these goals? Then, and this is super important, write them down. It turns out, putting your goals on paper or a place you can see them daily, can help you achieve them.

Sounds a bit overwhelming, right? Sometimes breaking a big idea into smaller chunks can make it easier to understand and accomplish so let's break it down into three different steps:

Determine your Ultimate Why

What is the driving force that is pushing you to take action in creating a budget plan? Achieving money management skills takes work, so you'll need motivation to maintain your plan. Think about what is pushing you to make a budget. Maybe you want to move out of your parents' house or feel financially strong enough to start a family. Maybe you not only want to be able to pay your bills each month, but save enough to retire early. Figure out what inspires or excites you about your plan and write it down. That way when you lose a little momentum, you can read it and get motivated again.

Envision How Your Life will be Different

How do you envision your life once you've reached these goals? Maybe it's the memories you'll make in your forever home or the pride you'll feel sending your child to college. If you have student loans or credit card debt now, imagine the day you'll pay them all off and how free that will make you feel.

Create Mighty Mini SMART Goals

Think about some smaller goals that can help you accomplish your larger one. While your big goal might be to retire early or become debt-free, if you break down those goals into smaller, more manageable, SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals, research shows you're more likely to achieve them because you will be able to see your progress and keep your motivation.

Specific:

Goals that are detailed and precise have a better chance of being accomplished. Consider the following questions, when creating your goal:

  • Who is involved in this goal?
  • What do I want to accomplish?
  • Why do I want to achieve this goal?

For example, a non-specific, general goal is to 'get out of debt.' A more specific goal is 'I will pay off my credit card debt to get closer to becoming debt-free.'

Measurable:

Goals must also have a measurement for success. Without it, it's hard to determine if you are progressing towards reaching your goal. Ask yourself:

  • How much/many?
  • How do I know if I've reached my goal?
  • How do I measure my progress?

Building on the goal above, 'I will pay off the full $2,500 credit card debt amount until it reaches $0. Each week, I will aim to contribute $50.'

Achievable/Attainable:

A SMART goal must be achievable and attainable. Ask yourself:

  • Do I have the ability to achieve this goal?
  • Am I missing any resources?

With this in mind, adding to the example above, 'I will pay off the full $2,500 credit card debt. Each week, I will aim to contribute $50. Based on my current income compared to my other bills, I can contribute to this goal.'

Realistic:

Goals must also be reachable given your resources and time available. Think through:

  • Is this goal realistic, given my time, support, and resources?
  • Can I commit to this goal?

Continuing to build on above example, ''I will pay off the full $2,500 credit card debt amount until it reaches $0. Each week, I will aim to contribute $50. Based on savings I've found in my discretionary funds, I can contribute to this goal. However, I'm going on vacation in June and can't meet the $50 per week goal that month, so I will allow myself a 2 week hiatus.'

Timely:

Goals must have a start and finish date. Without a deadline, you remove sense of urgency and have less motivation to achieve the goal.

The final goal would read something like, 'For the next 12 months, I will contribute $50 per week to pay off my credit card debt of $2,500.'

 

Creating a budget can be challenging. Maintaining a budget, even harder. But taking the time to understand your bigger picture, first, will help provide motivation, a sense of direction, and clear focus. Writing down your ultimate reasons for why you are creating a budget, envisioning how your life will be different, and creating SMART mighty mini goals are keys to budget planning success. To begin working on your budget, be sure to read 'How to Create a Budget Using This Simple Spreadsheet.'

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