Many people start off new financial goals with the turn of a new year, but sticking to a new goal (financial or otherwise) can be challenging. If you have already fallen behind on some of your financial goals, take heart in knowing that you’re not alone. It’s not uncommon for it to take several tries to finally master a new habit. So if you’re looking to get back on track with your financial goals, here are a few suggestions.
Take a minute to evaluate where you’re at
First, take a minute to evaluate where you’re at. Where did you start, and where you’re going. Emotionally, you might feel like you’ve been a complete failure with your financial goals, but if you sit down to evaluate, you might not find that you’re not quite as bad off as you’ve feared.
The best time to evaluate things is when you’re able to sit down and think dispassionately about the situation and truly give an unbiased opinion of where you’re at with your financial goals. In the heat of the moment (whether good or bad), you’re not likely to give yourself an accurate depiction. Instead, take some time to evaluate when you’re calmer.
Pay attention to where your money is going
If you’re not sure what you’re spending your money on, that could be the first problem to address. Remember that a budget is just a tool that helps you stop spending money on things that aren’t important to you so that you still have money left to spend on the things that ARE important to you. A tool like Mint can help you to track where your money is going.
If you’re sharing bills with a partner or roommates, make sure that you and your partner are on the same page as far as who is paying for what. Good communication is key here to make sure that all the bills get paid and everyone feels that the arrangement is fair.
Adjust your budget and set new goals
After you have a good idea of where your money is going, it’s time to evaluate your existing goals. If you feel like you’re a bit off track of the financial goals you set earlier, there’s no better time than today to adjust things and get into a more realistic place. Don’t feel like you’ve “failed” if you aren’t quite where you want to be. Instead, use the time to set yourself back into a better place.
By now, you’ve probably found a few things that you thought would be good that haven’t worked out exactly as you hoped. But you’ve also probably identified a few things that ARE working great. Use the “Stop, Start, Continue” pattern to figure out the things that you should:
- Stop doing that you are currently doing
- Start doing that you aren’t doing
- Continue doing because they’re going well
Identifying those areas will help you right the ship and get back on track with your financial goals.
Set up accountability
Another important step in getting back on track is to set up some accountability. Accountability can work in a variety of different ways, depending on your specific personal situation. If you are in a healthy relationship, it’s a great idea to talk about your money with your spouse or partner. For those on the same page financially speaking, the two of you can help support each other. If money is something that is a bit of a struggle to talk about in your relationship, there are still ways to work through financial disagreements.
If you’re single or not in a place where you share finances with your partner, one option can be to find an accountability partner. Try and find a trusted friend or family member who is also looking for some accountability, that can be a great way to help both of you. If not, the most important thing is to write down your goals, financial or otherwise. Goals are much more difficult to accomplish if you try to keep them in your head.
Don’t fall off the wagon if you make one mistake
The last tip to help get you back on track with your financial goals is to just know that it’s okay to slip up, and it’s okay to make mistakes. Too many people make one mistake and then blow up the whole plan. If you’ve struggled with money your whole life, it’s not realistic to expect to change your habits overnight, or even over the course of weeks or months. If you go over your budget in a particular month, look at the bigger picture and celebrate your successes. That just might give you the energy and excitement to keep moving forward into even bigger successes.
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids.