Consumer Savings Tips

5 Steps to Set Goals that Stick

Whether you’re trying to save money, pay down debt or lose weight, successfully reaching any goal comes down to the strategy you set in place. Although this seems like the easiest part of the process, it’s unfortunately where many consumers falter. Considering that only 8% of resolution-makers actually achieve their new year goal, it’s clear consumers are missing critical goal-setting skills.

Get back on track to meet your resolution or set a goal any time of the year by using these tips to make it stick.

1. Be specific in the details.
Vowing to spend less and save more and pay down debt are popular New Year resolutions, but these goals are vague and leave you with little direction. Set yourself up for success by being more specific. Not just in the actual goal, but also in the details. For instance, determine how much you want to save, where you plan to cut back and how much debt you would like to pay off. You also want to include dates by which you want to reach these different milestones.  Then, make a plan by identifying a list of actionable items and writing down the concrete steps you need to follow to reach your ultimate goal. This gives you something to measure so you can track success and visualize the progress you’re making toward your end goal.

2. Set reasonable and realistic goals.
Although it’s great to dream big, being realistic about what you can accomplish keeps frustration at bay and helps you stay motivated to reach your goal. If you want to put $5,000 toward your student loan debt this year, for example, you’ll have to figure out if squirreling away over $400 a month is something you can do. Otherwise, determine a more practical goal including the amount of money you can comfortably set aside. The same principal holds true if you’re trying to lose weight or save money.

3. Focus on one change at a time.
Every misstep you make, the more likely you are to give up. This is why it’s a good idea to start small when trying to change certain behaviors. Otherwise, you may get burnt out when you try to change everything at once. After all, it’s a lot easier to commit to a small-level change than a complete life overhaul. So, begin by identifying one or two easy behaviors to change until it becomes a new habit and move on from there.

4. Find a motivational buddy.
If you can find a family member, friend or co-worker who shares the same or similar goal, working together allows you to hold each other accountable and provides that extra motivation you may need when you’re feeling discouraged. If you can’t find a savings buddy, apps like Beeminder keep you accountable by taking your money if you don’t keep up with your goal! HabitForge is another app which provides a community to encourage you, with daily check-ins and progress reports.

5. Enjoy a reward here and there.
If part of your goal includes giving up something you love, you can incorporate these back into your life from time to time in the form of a reward. This allows you to celebrate mini milestones along the road to reaching your ultimate goal and can help relieve any potential for feeling burnt out. For example, when you successfully reach your three-month savings goal, treat yourself to a get together with friends. This doesn’t mean you should blow your hard work by going to an expensive restaurant, however. You can find more affordable ways to celebrate and make sure there’s room in the budget without dipping in to the savings you put away to accommodate this expense.

I’d love to hear from you! What strategies have you used to reach a goal successfully?

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