I’ve gone through my fair share on financial seasons. There was the just-starting-out-and-saving-for-a-car season, the traveling-and-mission-trips-galore season, the moving-overseas season, the broke-moving-and-planning-a-wedding season, the newlywed season, and the saving-for-a-house season, and more to boot. I’ve been blessed to be able to eat out without a concern in the world at times and I’ve pinched two pennies together for dear life in others.
I’m pretty big on recognizing seasons and the things they usher in. For some reason, the start of this year really made me consider my goals and seasons in many different parts of life (I went into detail on that in a very reflective post last month). When it came to money, there was something that absolutely made sense to me, although I hadn’t realized I’d been doing it before.
I’m a big believer in budgeting and budgets (a post on that here), knowing when to spend and when to save, and the necessity of fitting fun things, like trips, into the budget (post on that here). Yes, I appreciate budgets and financial planning. But there is a downfall in basic budgeting that many that don’t share my love for fiscal planning often agree upon…budgeting can be boring and tedious. Sometimes, it feels like you are losing inspiration and you’re just stuck. Why not take that money you are trying to put towards retirement and buy a new TV? The fact is, budgeting is a tool, which means it can and will feel like work, sometimes. Without something more, budgeting will either easily become a part of your life or be a constant struggle, depending on who you are. Either way, it is easy to get stuck in a rut and not truly appreciate the lifestyle your budget provides (especially in the not-fun-in-the-beginning exchanges, such as a lifestyle of less eating out in exchange for greater financial freedom). In order for there to be true inspiration and vision, you have to have a goal. Where are you going with your money? Here are a few simple tips I’ve adapted to provide inspiration and purpose to my budget on a yearly basis:
- Create a time-centered goal. Having a financial goal for every year creates purpose that ends up shaping your financial transactions for the entire year. There may be times when you need to create a multi-pronged plan, if you are going to complete your immediate goal in the middle of the year. My entire financial life centered upon buying my first car when I first entered the workforce. I made that my goal, figured out in my budget that it would take me a year, and that made sticking to my day-to-day budget (and working) easier and more purposeful. Doing something that’s good for you, like budgeting, without having a “why and what for” in mind makes it difficult.
- Take the time to figure out what is truly feasible, in order to not set yourself up for failure. Planning on paying off your debts with a ridiculous percentage of your income is probably not feasible, yet people often jump to creating a shoe-string budget when they talk about big financial goals. That is a recipe for failure. You have to make room for life in your budget, or you will be constantly frustrated and very likely to give up on your goal. It is better to take a step back and figure out a plan you can succeed at executing in order to provide encouragement as you work towards that goal, instead of frustration over the fact that you are falling short. It is better to be more conservative and to be able to put extra towards the goal every once in awhile than to make a goal you cannot hit.
- Take time to decide what you really want. Oftentimes, we have multiple things vying for our attention. Should we be working exclusively towards being debt-free, or should we be building up to buy a house? Should we be taking on student loans or waiting to have a baby? Despite all the advice in the world on what you should and shouldn’t be doing with your money, you are only going to feel inspired to continue to work towards your goals if you are in agreement with the plan. If you’re married, take the time to come to an agreement on a plan that suits both of you, so that if times get tough and you need to refigure the finances a bit, both of you have the same respect and desire for the goal as the other.
- Put that goal in front of you and talk about it. When I was working towards moving overseas, I had half a year to prepare financially. I knew how much I needed and I tracked where I was at on a weekly or biweekly basis. If you are married, this is a great thing to discuss with your spouse in a no-pressure conversation (think dreaming, not stressing). Talking to yourself or someone trusted provides great inspiration and helps keep your goal in mind- for those times you may be tempted to take some money out of the growing savings pot and using it for something more fleeting. Don’t pressure yourself by obsessing about it, but keep the goal in mind so when you have to say “no” to other things so you can can continue to say “yes” to your year’s goal, it is easier to do so.
What are some of the ways you keep your financial goals in front of you for inspiration?