As we enter 2022, I think we're all a bit hesitant to claim "2022 is our year!" given how that's worked out for many of us the last two years. I'm also wary in general of setting super ambitious goals that involve strict diets, strict budgets, or unrealistic expectations around when I'll go to bed or get up in the morning. (Seriously, I don't get a quiet house until at least 9pm, and there is no way I'm getting up at 5am on a daily basis)
I prefer the way of the tortoise- slow, steady, sustainable; enjoying the journey while still making progress toward my goals. If you'd like to join me in the way of the tortoise, here are some simple habits to develop:
- Make your financial goals visual
We've all heard about the importance of writing our goals down, and how much more likely we are to achieve them. I'd argue we also need to make them visual- whether that's a spreadsheet, a special workbook, or a giant poster board with Sharpie doodles- make it colorful! You could use graphs, pie charts, a thermometer like the ones they use for fundraising. If it's fun to look at, you're more likely to use it long-term.
If you want to make it even more fun, invite a couple friends over grab some wine, and work on your goal setting visuals together.
- Track your progress
Set a monthly date with yourself on your calendar to see what progress you made. Heck, maybe have your friends over again and celebrate together! Us over-achievers tend to set goals and work toward them, achieve them, then set a new one, without ever pausing to congratulate ourselves. Tell a friend how you did each month so you can cheer each other on.
- Automate as much as possible
Save your energy for where it's needed- don't waste it on remembering to pay your bills, saving for goals, or contributing to your retirement. If it works with your cash flow, set your bills to auto pay. For credit cards, if you're freaked out about a large payment coming out before your paycheck, set up an automatic payment of an amount you're comfortable with. As far as your savings goals (like buying a house, traveling, etc) set either an automatic transfer or a reminder on your phone to move funds after you get paid. You won't have to think about it, and you'll be less likely to spend the money on other things. If you have a retirement account and aren't contributing regularly, get that on auto, even if you're starting small, like $25 or $50 a month.
- Scan your transactions once a week
Make it a habit to scan all your transactions at least once a week. It will be much easier if you use a budgeting tool that syncs transactions across all accounts including checking and credit cards. You're looking for transactions you didn't actually make (gotta report those quick to get your money back!) subscriptions you don't use anymore, and anything else that doesn't look right. If you also start to notice trends and track what you're spending on different categories, you're tracking your budget- great job!
- Journal about your progress
Take time at least once a month to write down how your financial goals are coming along. Jot down what you're proud of yourself for and what you intended to do but didn't. Also write a little about how it will feel when you achieve your goals to remind yourself of your why.
- Find a supportive community
A huge obstacle to financial goal-setting is the fact that we haven't normalized talking about it. Take the first step by finding some friends who are open to talking about financial goals and encouraging each other. They say you become the sum of the five people you spend the most time with- this is true for how you view and manage money. If you're having a hard time to find friends that are on a similar path, you can also read books and/or find an online community.