There are countless numbers of articles and blog posts on the Internet about how to save better and the importance of budgeting. It is important, however, to realize that these are just means to a greater and grander end: meeting your family's financial goals. Below are five ideas on how you can create solid financial goals that can hopefully change those means from a sacrifice to something positive.
1. Determine your priorities
First things first. Don't sell yourself short for little luxuries you can live without. Giving up what you want now for what you want most can cause a little discomfort initially, but keeping the end goal in mind can keep the motivation long-term. Put your goals in order of priority. Sometimes you have to deal with something a little more urgent, like paying off debt, before you can focus on what you want to get done.
2. Determine what excites you
What motivates you? Do you like to travel? Do you want to do humanitarian work or mission work for your church? Do you want to have that dream car, house or boat? Or just spend more time with your family? If it's exciting to you and is in line with your priorities, it can serve as a constant reminder as to why you're going through all this effort. It will also give you a lot more happiness because you are working toward something important to you.
3. Set short-, mid- and long-term goals
I believe in setting what's called a BHAG, or a big hairy audacious goal; one that could take a whole lifetime to complete. But without short- and mid-term successes, your motivation may not last long. Also realize that your long-term goals may change over time. As you grow older, your lifestyle, like and dislikes, and expectations about life change. But just like the child who wanted to be an actor and ended up becoming a personal finance blogger, you aren't settling for anything less exciting - it's just different. Setting shorter-termed goals can help you transition by helping you respond to your circumstances and desires as they change.
4. Keep yourself accountable
This is going to be a process. If you don't consistently remind yourself of your goals, you will lose sight of the need to prepare for them. It will be easy to let small things distract you. The slope is a slippery one. Before you know it, you could be completely off-course. Set timelines for your goals. Revisit them from time to time to refresh your mind and set budgeting and savings plans to align with them.
5. Act now
A quote often attributed to Albert Einstein says, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." Chances are, if you don't act immediately nothing will be different a year from now. You will lose the excitement, and it will become harder and harder to leave your comfort zone to pursue higher things. If you don't believe me, review your New Year's resolutions from last year.
In the 1900s, Harvard did a study about goal-setting. Researchers surveyed recent graduates about goal-setting. Eighty-four percent responded that they had no clear goals, 13 percent had goals that were not committed to paper, and 3 percent had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them. You won't need me to tell you which group was the most successful 10 years later when they completed the study. It is amazing what defining goals clearly, writing them down, and acting on them can do. It can have a huge impact on your family's well-being and long-term happiness.