Set SMART financial goals to help you save more
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Learning how to set realistic financial goals is an important part of taking charge of your money. Whether you’re trying to pay down debt or save for your first home, you need clear financial goals, as well as a road map for reaching them. Here, you’ll find tips that can help.
First, look at your monthly income and expenditures and creating a budget. You may need to track your spending for a few weeks or even months to come up with reliable numbers―and remember to track everything, including groceries, car maintenance, rent, utilities, insurance, prescriptions, subscriptions, entertainment, gifts, clothing, holidays and other expenses. Then, identify if there are any adjustments you can make to income and/or expenditures. Second, determine your time frame. How much money do you need to come up with, and by when? Third, make a plan with steps you can take to reach your financial goal.
The SMART goal model may help as you develop your plan. SMART stands for:
Specific. Identify specific ways you can cut spending or make more money. For example, don’t just say, “I’ll try to save £100 more a month.” Get specific:
- “I’m going to save £60 a month by making my lunch instead of buying it at work.”
- “Instead of going out every Friday night, I’m going to save at least £40 by staying in one Friday night each month.”
Measurable. Make sure there’s a way to measure your progress. For example, if you’re trying to save £60 a month to pay down a debt more quickly, track your spending to make sure that’s happening, and then check to make sure you’re actually increasing your monthly payments to creditors by £60 a month.
Action-oriented. A goal like “I’m not going to use my credit card as often” isn’t measurable and will be hard to stick to. Instead, commit to a definite action, like “I will take all the credit cards out of my wallet, so I can’t make unplanned purchases.”
Realistic. A goal should be achievable. For example, a goal of paying off your credit card debt within three years, given a structured realistic payment plan, is achievable. But a goal of paying off all credit card debt when you win the lottery will most likely not be attainable.
Time-limited. Make sure your goals are time-limited. Setting a time frame for each goal is helpful, both to keep you focused and to help you measure your progress.
For more information on reaching financial goals, visit Money Advice Service (www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk), the UK government’s free online resource for managing your money. In Ireland, visit the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (www.mabs.ie).
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