Now’s the Time to Make Financial Goals

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

It’s barely December, and with fewer weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, most of us are very focused on Christmas shopping, decorating, menu planning, and, in general,  worrying we won’t have enough time or money for it all.  But let’s take a step away from the hustle and bustle of the holidays to think about what’s right around the corner: a new year. Sure, you might manage to salvage something of your long-lost financial goals between now and December 31st, but it’s not likely. As far as 2013 goes, what’s done is gone. This doesn’t mean you should throw all caution to the wind and go into more debt or forget about your budget — a lot of financial damage can be done in just 4 weeks! What it does mean is that you should start making a mental (and literal) list of goals for next year.

Why Now? 

  • Setting a game plan now allows you to go about achieving your goals as soon as the new year hits, instead of halfway through February.
  • You already have most of the year’s financial statements to look back on and see where you need to make changes.
  • Getting used to the idea of change is half the battle; starting to think about a new budget, savings, or debt-reduction plan in December gives you more time to adjust mentally and solidify your resolve.

How to Set New Financial Goals

Be Realistic. 
First of all, your goals need to be realistic. Just as with diet and exercise resolutions, it’s important to take baby steps and be realistic about your own abilities and limitations. Becoming debt free may be your ultimate goal, but very few people are able to achieve that in one year’s time. A more realistic goal might be to try paying off your highest-interest credit card next year, or pay off your vehicle.

Be Specific.
This goes hand in hand with setting realistic goals. The more specific you are, the more you’ll view it as attainable and the easier it’ll be to accomplish. A good way to do this might be listing your overall goals at the top of the page, and the smaller, specific steps to achieving them underneath. Pick one for each month of the year, or as many as you can realistically tackle in a year’s time.

Be positive.
It’s easy to focus on the financial habits and practices we want and need to eliminate.  While it’s important to know your weaknesses and where you need to improve, it can also become disheartening if that’s all you concentrate on.  Setting positive goals instead of negative ones will not only help you achieve specific goals, but increase your confidence that if you are capable of achieving positive goals, you are also capable of cutting your bad habits. Think in terms of “‘I’m going to do ___” instead of “I’m going to stop ___.”

Expect to over-achieve.
I already mentioned the dangers of setting unrealistic financial goals, but that requires an addendum. Your goals shouldn’t be so unrealistic that it’s disheartening when you can’t achieve them, but neither should you sell yourself short. You may be able to easily accomplish your small, specific financial goals and wish you’d set more. A great way to prepare for this is to set aside a list of extra goals that you can start on if you accomplish your first list. If not, you already have a starting list for next year!

Setting new financial goals for the upcoming year doesn’t have to feel daunting or unobtainable. Start planning this month, if only in your head, so that when January comes you’ll have an action plan and be ready to go.

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