Here’s how to get started on firming up ambitious but wishy-washy financial goals.

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If you’re like most people, you’ve probably got at least a few financial goals in mind that can improve your life both now and years down the road. Maybe you want to pay off a debt that’s been haunting you for years, or you’re ready to start saving for retirement. Your first goal may even be as simple as having a savings account for emergencies.

Whatever your financial goals, if all you do is bounce around vague ideas about how to one day achieve them, you won’t make much headway. But what if you got serious about taking steps toward achieving the financial goals that can make your life better?

I should set aside money for emergencies

Tired of putting car repairs, doctor’s bills and new appliances on credit cards? If so, you already know you need an emergency fund. You’ve just never gotten around to opening a savings account designated for emergencies. Or, you opened an emergency savings account, only to drain it and never replenish the funds.

If you want to have savings to cover emergencies, scrounge up at least a few hundred to a thousand dollars and open an emergency savings account. Then allocate a percentage of each paycheck to deposit into the account. When you must withdraw money for an emergency, commit to replacing that amount as soon as possible.

Find out: 5 Ways to Build Your Emergency Savings Fast

Maybe I should save for retirement

Retirement may seem a long way off, or maybe it’s approaching soon. Either way, take steps to get started on saving for retirement. For example, if your employer sponsors a 401(k) plan, sign up to contribute a percentage from each paycheck, especially if the company matches a portion of each contribution.

Study up on various types of retirement accounts and investments. To figure out the best path forward, consult a financial planner or retirement planning professional.

Find out: 7 Pros and Cons of Investing in a 401(k) Retirement Plan at Work

Someday I’ll pay off all this debt

Racking up debt on credit cards is easy and fun, but paying it off can be brutal when you owe too much. It can even take years to pay it off if you make only the minimum payment or pay a small amount each month. But don’t despair. If you want to pay off debt faster, you have options. You just need to get started.

Consider meeting with a credit counselor at a nonprofit credit counseling agency, which is usually free or available for a nominal fee. A credit counselor can assess your situation and help with creating a budget and debt management plan so you can pay off debt. If your debt amount seems insurmountable, signing up for a debt settlement program may be an option.

However, vet the business first by checking for complaints against the debt settlement company with your state attorney general’s office and the Better Business Bureau. If you’re unsure of who your state’s Attorney General is, get started by searching USA.Gov for contact information.

Find out: How to Pay Off Debt for Less Money

I should be more careful with spending

We all overspend sometimes, but if you’re broke at the end of every pay period, you know that something is wrong, and you need to fix the problem. But maybe you hesitate on getting to the root of the problem because you don’t know where to start.

That’s where creating a budget can help. When you know how much money is coming in, how much goes to monthly expenses and how much slips away unnoticed – until you run out of money again – you can gain control of your spending.

Think budgeting sounds boring? It doesn’t have to be. Budgeting can be fun with a budgeting app such as Mint, which links to your bank accounts, bills and debit and credit card spending.

Find out: How to Create a Budget and Stick to It

I wish I could buy a house

Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases and milestones of your life. No wonder saving for a large down payment seems so intimidating. But you have to begin somewhere. Set a goal of how much a down payment you will need and allocate money each month to a designated savings account.

Meanwhile, educate yourself on home buying and homeownership by taking a home buyer’s course offered by a nonprofit credit counseling agency or city program.


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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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