Countdown to 2015…3

What are your financial goals for the new year?

Get out of debt? Save more for retirement? Be more generous?

SET SMART GOALS – Whatever your financial desires, make sure you turn them into SMART goals that are:

Specific: Exactly what do you want your money to do for you (and others)?

Measurable: Break down your financial goals into practical solutions. How much extra would you have to earn per month to pay off debt or more easily pay your bills? How much do you need to save in order to attain your spending or saving goals? Experts recommend you put real numbers on paper so you can measure your success.

Attainable: You likely won’t become a millionaire in the next six months unless you’re well on your way already! Set goals that are actually attainable or doable. And don’t bother buying lottery tickets or hoping for other financial windfalls; you have a much greater chance of being hit by lightning. Financial success usually comes the old fashioned way, by work and praying for it!

Realistic: Set goals that you actually have a chance of accomplishing. You can’t work 200 hours a week, but you can likely do more than you’re currently doing. How would giving away 10% instead of 5% affect your bottom line? How would working more affect your family? How long would you have to save to get that thing you want to buy? Try to differentiate between your desires and realistic goals you can actually meet.

Timely: Set a realistic timeframe for accomplishing your financial goals? At X$ per month, how long would it take to________________?

USE A BUDGET AND TRACK YOUR SPENDING – In addition, it’s vital to have the right systems in place for budgeting and tracking your money. Besides good old paper and pencil, there are many types of software out there from spreadsheets to banking apps.

I highly recommend YNAB (short for You Need A Budget). YNAB has software for both your computer (Mac or PC) and smartphone (iPhone/iPod/iPad, Android or Kindle Fire), syncing all your devices effortlessly via Cloud Sync. Not only does it keep track of your checking account, but ALL your accounts including savings, credit cards, and Pay Pal. It also contains your budget, so you can allocate your resources and keep track of what comes in and what goes out. You can even generate reports that show exactly what your’re spending. It is extremely important to know where you money is going and what it’s doing for you. My readers get a $6 discount for buying the software through this link.

READ AND LISTEN TO EXPERTS – I find listening to radio programs such as the Dave Ramsey Show and the Clark Howard Show help me stay on track. In a world that says, “spend, spend, spend!” it’s nice to hear a balanced messages to save, spend less and get out of debt. I also follow podcasts such as The Money Girl and YNAB. Occasionally I read blogs with advice on such as Get Rich Slowly: Personal Finance That Makes Cents

Like anything else, you want to follow advice that is ethical and makes sense. (If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.) But why not take advantage of sound advice (and did I say FREE?) that’s out there.

FOLLOW PRINCIPLES – Here are just a few:

Various Faiths: Being generous and minimizing debt are virtues in most religions; Many Jews and Christians give away 10% of their income; Muslims pay Zakat. And remember that the debtor is slave to the lender.

YNAB: #1 – Give every dollar a job, #2 – Save for a rainy day, #3 – Roll with the punches, #4 – Live on last month’s income (I’ve found this principle SO very helpful!)

Dave Ramsey: #1 – Start a $1,000 emergency fund (it takes the pressure off living month-to-month and dealing with emergencies), #2 – Pay off debt as soon as possible (smallest to largest), #3 – Increase emergency fund to 3-6 months of living expenses, #4 – Invest 15% of income to retirement, #5 – Fund children’s college funds, #6 – Pay off home mortgage, and #7 – Build wealth and give.

Get Control of Your Money in 2015. You push it instead of letting it push you!

Royalty-free image by Michael & Christa Richert in Berlin, Germany. Retrieved from http://www.freeimages.com/photo/1390419