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how to set financial goals for the new year

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The financial skills that I focused on that helped me pay off thousands in debt.

The current year is winding down, and like many people, I’ve begun thinking about my financial goals for the next 12 months. It’s very easy at this time of year to give yourself a hard time about all of the goals you didn’t attain, but I have the view that you should take the opposite approach. Spend time looking at the financial goals that you’ve achieved during the year and see what you did to pay off that old bill, make more money, or afford an epic overseas trip without going into debt.

Once you’ve figured out how you were able to meet those goals during the current year, take some time to break down the actual process that you chose to create successful outcomes for your goals. You can make a list of your financial goals. Do that by first asking yourself some questions…

Setting your financial goals for the new year

Did you focus on earning more money and were able to rock out an accelerated payment plan on that old credit bill from five years ago? Or, did you go shopping online each time you were bored and had nothing to do? Was it as simple as setting boundaries and communicating with friends and loved ones that you were still going to happy hours just not three each week, instead you would go to one a week and were using the cash you saved for other things?

Once you’ve spent some time looking back at what actions changed your outcomes, it’s now possible to see if you can duplicate the successful steps you took as you tackle your other financial goals. There’s an old saying “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” and this applies to financial processes that work and create successful outcomes.

Next, ask yourself what is most important to you financially in the upcoming year. Here are some personal financial goal examples…

  • Become debt-free
  • Purchase a home
  • Quit your job
  • Maybe just save money
  • Or, focus on savings because you’ve never had a lot in your savings account before.

…Your process will depend on the goal or goals that you choose.

If you are looking to become debt-free, you may need to spend time evaluating your spending, the type of debt that you have, and how quickly you would like to attain your goal. You may end up breaking your debt-repayment goal into types of debt or by the amount of interest that you’re paying on each debt.

Proof you can achieve your financial goals

At the time that I’m writing this post, I am paying off my remaining $5,000 in unsecured debt after paying thousands of dollars in credit card and other types of unsecured debt. Once I finish paying that segment of debt off in the next 60 days, I will then focus on paying off my student loans and another small debt that I’m working on. My debt repayment process has been messier than I would like, but I’ve paid off thousands of dollars of debt by breaking down my debt into smaller chunks. By doing this, I was able to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount that I owed.

Seeing that I’m at my final $5,000 has given me a huge endorphin rush, and I’m currently figuring out how I can kick that remaining debt to the curb as soon as possible. If I had focused on my entire amount of debt, I would have felt very overwhelmed and frustrated by the process. Segmenting my obligations made a huge difference in achieving my current debt-repayment goal.

Focus on simplifying your financial life so that you can stay laser-focused on your financial goals. If you’re like most people who are busy with: work, family, pets, and more, having a complicated financial life makes it even harder to focus on building financial progress.

Financial goal-saving ideas

Go through your expenses and eliminate any services that you no longer use, get rid of subscriptions you don’t need, and pay in full for quarterly or annual expenses in order to take advantage of any discounts that your service provider may offer you.

Open up separate bank accounts dedicated to the different financial goals that you’re focused on. Then, set up automatic withdrawals from your earnings to fund those accounts.

Know what works for your personality and what doesn’t in order to keep you focused. Use a tool such as Personal Capital, Mint, Tiller, or even a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track your expenses and earnings. You can also opt to download apps that motivate or help you manage your cash daily.

You may find yourself doing a lot of work setting up systems and getting rid of the processes that didn’t work for you in the current year. Take it from me, even though this step of the process is tedious — it’s worth it.

Focus on your goals

What I’ve discovered in my financial journey is that there are three major components to setting and achieving financial goals. First, gaining clarity on why you’re actually setting the goal. Because financial goals can sometimes take so long to reach and are often tied to emotion, being very clear on my “why?” made an enormous difference in my ability to stay focused on my goal and manage the feelings that were connected with some of the bad financial practices that I had.

Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to making financial decisions. That’s why next in achieving financial goals is, communication. It’s a huge part of achieving financial goals. If you owe money to people, talk to them!

Consistency is key

This can be very scary because there may be emotions such as fear, guilt, or anxiety attached to the person or entity that you owe. Acknowledge that emotion and money are connected and why it’s important to manage how you feel about the situation. For me, it was really frightening having people call and email me about money that I owed them; especially when I was underearning or felt like I didn’t have the ability to manage the situation. Communicating with my creditors is still intense for me. But I’m aware that this is an area that I struggle with and I continue to work on it.

And, finally, consistent actions create the best results. There is a saying that “what you focus on grows.” And, that’s true when it comes to paying off debt, saving more, or investing for the future. Each day I have time allocated toward focusing on my finances. It’s nothing crazy, just 30 minutes where I look at where I stand financially, what bills are coming up, opportunities to make more money, and what hasn’t been working financially. By focusing daily on my money, I’m able to catch potential problems pretty quick.

Remember that changing your finances is a marathon, not a sprint. You will make mistakes and have successes. Be kind to yourself and good luck!

If you’re interested in checking out some tools and tips to help with your 2019 financial goals, check out Debt.com’s money management section.

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