When it comes to reaching your financial goals, there's real merit to writing everything down, from your total debt to your budgeting plan to your spending patterns.
Kumiko Love, founder of financial advice website The Budget Mom, knows this well. Within eight months of getting serious about eliminating her debt, Love, who's a single mom to a 6-year-old son, paid off $77,281. She declared herself completely debt-free in January 2019.
Through her blog turned full-time business, Love publicly documented her own debt journey using color-coded charts, worksheets and calendars to track and display her progress. Now, she employs these same visual tools to teach her followers money tips and tricks.
One visual tool Love recommends is her three-part "Budget Blueprint Goal Worksheet," which allows you to record and organize your financial aspirations, such as building up an emergency savings, paying off student loans or making a big purchase, for the upcoming year, the next five years and 10 to 15 years down the line.
Source: The Budget Mom
"Having a reminder, something you can see every day, helps me stay motivated," Love tells CNBC Make It. "Writing it down and creating action steps on how to achieve them turns your wants into reality. All of a sudden, you know exactly where to spend your money and why."
Follow these three steps to set actionable — and achievable — money goals for the new year.
Prior to writing anything down, Love says to first think about what is important to you. Do you want to buy a new car or house? Do you want to pay off all of your credit card debt? Maybe you simply want to take a vacation next year.
Whatever it is, think about the aspirations you have, no matter how big or small, which will require financial planning in order to accomplish.
Next, get your goals down on paper. You can tackle your short-term or long-term goals in any order, but make sure you're detailed when writing down what you want and how you'll make it happen. "A goal isn't a reality until you can write down action steps on how you are going to achieve it. Until then, they are just intentions," Love said. "For each goal, I want you to write down specific actions steps."
If she were tackling the short-term goal of paying off debt, Love would write something along the lines of: "Pay off debt by tackling my student loans first. I will put $500 monthly towards my student loans for the next 24 months."
As you're working, ask yourself these three questions:
- Are my goals specific?
- Are they measurable?
- Are they achievable?
Once you've filled out all three parts of the worksheet, reflect on what you've written. Taking a moment to read them over once more allows you more time to make sure you're satisfied with your goals and to let them sink in. And to motivate yourself to follow through, hang it somewhere around the house where you can see and revisit your goals as regularly as possible.
Remember, this worksheet isn't meant to be set aside once you've completed it. You should revisit this sheet periodically, Love said. "Any time you experience a major life change, your financial goals should be reevaluated."
If you want to reach your financial goals in 2020, why not start now? The new year isn't only time when you can (or should) set fresh money goals, but this time of year is a prime opportunity to be intentional about your spending habits.
"Being financially healthy is a huge part of living your best life," Love said. "The new year is the perfect time to start making solid financial solutions that can lead to lasting change in your life."
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