How to Set the Right Financial Goals for You

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financial goals

A new year is coming and with it, dozens of posts about saving money in 2015 and creating amazing New Year’s resolutions. The thing is, people hardly keep their New Year’s resolutions (unless you’re awesome like John, who rocked his resolutions this year!)

However, I want to change that. I want everyone to keep their resolutions next year, especially their financial goals. It can be hard, I know, because life intervenes and the unexpected tends to happen and derail your financial plans. However, a lot of that can be avoided if you simply set the right goals for you. How do you do that? Great question. Below are some tips to help you out.

1. Be Realistic with Your Financial goals


Yes, it’s important to shoot for the stars, and I do believe that most things are possible when it comes to our personal and professional goals. However, I find that people make their goals way too big too fast. Instead, it’s important to have small, incremental goals to build your way to the ultimate one.

For example, don’t set a goal to save $20,000 next year if you only make $30,000. Sure, it’s not impossible, as many people have proven they can live on very little. However, if you’re new to saving aggressively or new to budgeting, you should probably start slow, like taking things one month at a time.

2. Know Yourself


It’s very, very hard to change who you are. You can make little tweaks here and there, but innately you are who you are. So, when it comes to setting financial goals, know yourself. If you’re really good at saving and you know that you can make it the whole year without eating out, that’s awesome for you. However, that would never work in my house. A better goal for me would be to try to only eat out or order food once a month. That would be a challenge, but very reachable with the right motivation. Basically, know yourself and your limits so that you can successfully reach your goals.

3. Check in Regularly


Financial goals are only possible if you regularly monitor them. It’s not enough to say you want to save more or invest more this year and simply automate it. Now, I’m a fan of automating but I always go back and check at the end of the month to make sure everything is as it should be. Stay involved with your goals and your money choices. As the saying goes, no one cares more about your money than you do. To add to that I would say, no one cares more about setting the right financial goals next year than you do.

Honestly, the best thing about a fresh, new year is that it really is a blank slate. I only had one goal this year, which I wrote about recently, and that was simply to maintain what I had financially.

Next year, though, it’s game on. I hope to save much more money than I did this year because we have the very large expense of residency applications for my husband. He’s finally entering in his 5th and final year of medical school next year and with that comes $10,000 worth of applications, interviews, flights, and hotel rooms so that he can hopefully match into a residency spot.


So, that’s my big goal for this upcoming year. What’s yours? How do you set financial goals that are a good fit for you? How did you do on your goals for this year? 

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Catherine Alford is the go to personal finance expert for parents who want to better their finances and take on a more active financial role in their families.


  • Great advice! Go big or go home is a popular mantra, but it frequently leads to people setting goals they eventually give up on.

  • Kassandra says:

    I focus on just a couple of goals each year and tend to throw everything I’ve got in order to accomplish them. This year, as a financial goal, I wanted to max out all non-taxable retirement/SEP-IRA accounts and we did! Wishing you and the family the best for 2015 Cat. 🙂

  • Mrs. Maroon says:

    I appreciate your thought about checking in regularly. How often do we insist on checking social media? In the grand scheme of life, does that make a huge difference? So why shouldn’t you put the same kind of effort into something as important as your financial health??

  • Great post, Cat. This year I had a goal of $2k/month side income but actually stopped doing monthly reconciliations of my side hustle income in April…which is terrible, I know. I’m not sure whether I reached my goal or not but I’ll find out soon. I think you have to balance “realistic” and “stretch” goals; stretch goals are good but only if they are actually realistic.

  • Jason B says:

    I’m all for checking in regularly to make sure that you complete your financial goals. I had a few ups and downs this year. I know that next year will be much better.

  • Great post,

    I tend to use the SMART system for setting my work and personal related goals. Do you use it? As for 2015 it well be much of the same agressively save money to try and achieve financial independence before my 29th birthday.

  • I’m setting more realistic goals this year Cat. I want to make sure I can meet them. If I meet them early, I can always raise them to keep myself challenged! I’m excited about the fresh start that comes with the new year!

  • This is great advice. I definitely do best with small, incremental, specific goals that lead up to a larger overarching goal. It helps me to break a large goal up so that I feel like I am indeed progressing towards it. Otherwise, it’s disheartening and I’ll feel like I’m not on track.

  • Michelle says:

    This year, I am trying to set attainable goals. These are well thought out and achievable.

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