Learning to be successful through your career or personal life are skills that take practice. Learning to be financially successful is no different. It’s more than just setting a budget once and walking away, hoping it works out. You must give yourself the right tools to be successful and follow through every month. Below are a list of steps you need to take in order to ensure your financial success:
Know where you’re starting.
It’s hard to face reality when it comes to adding up your debt. It’s something we’ve all struggled with it. Without knowing where you’re starting though, how can you know where you want to go? Or where you’ve been?
As painful as it is to see your total debts, you need a baseline to measure your progress. Also, it’s important to know exactly what you owe to whom, so you can organize those debts and knock them out one by one.
Calculating your net worth goes hand in hand with knowing your debt amounts. It’s a good gauge of your overall financial health. Debt is just one piece of the puzzle, and knowing your net worth is another great way to measure your financial progress.
Set realistic financial goals.
Another key piece to being financially successful is setting realistic financial goals. It’s so easy to throw something out like, “I want to be debt free!”, or “I want to own a yacht!” Sure, we all do, get in line! If your goals aren’t specific, they’re impossible to measure and meet. And that’s when you’ll throw your hands up in frustration and walk away.
I’m a huge fan of setting goals. To me, it’s as a personal challenge to see if I can beat it. (I might be a TINY bit competitive…think Monica from Friends while playing board games.)
When you decide to set a goal, use the SMART method:
- Action Oriented
- Time Bound
Let’s create an example goal. Rather than, I want to be debt free, let’s make it SMART. I want to pay off $21,000 of debt by June 2018. This goal is very specific: it has a measurement of time and debt amount, it includes an action, and it’s realistic and has a time limit.
By setting realistic financial goals, you’ll be much more likely to achieve them.
Decide how to organize your finances.
Are you a pen and paper kind of person? Or do you prefer an excel spreadsheet, a website like mint.com or an app? A lot of people starting out prefer to use pen and paper – it’s easy, and there’s no learning curve or distraction of a fancy app.
If your financial paperwork isn’t in order, or easy to access and use, you’ll get frustrated and give up. Create a spot (binder, desktop folder, etc.) where you keep everything together and easily accessible.
That way it can’t go missing and you can refer to it throughout the month. Organization means knowing what’s due when, and not missing payments.
Take a financial snapshot every month.
When I began budgeting, I didn’t realize that I needed to recreate the budget at the beginning of the month. I just thought a blanket budget would work, and was so frustrated when we couldn’t stay in budget.
Now I realize that you need to revisit it and adjust at the beginning of every month. Along with your budget, you need to take a financial snapshot every month. It’s a way to easily monitor and measure your progress, and help determine if you’re working towards your goals.
If not, you can’t see what happened that month. Were there extra expenses you didn’t plan for? Did you make less than expected?
This way, you can adjust your path so that you can still hit your target. It’s much easier to catch and correctly on a monthly basis, rather than six months down the road when you’ve veered so far off course you have to throw your goals out the window and start over.
Find visual resources for continued motivation.
I am absolutely a huge fan of visual resources – I have so many debt printables slapped up on my wall showing our progress it’s just a tiny big ridiculous. These charts are amazingly satisfying to color in every month. I’m like a kid at Christmas when it’s time to update them!
No matter how you do it, having a visual reminder of your goals is helpful. Ours are taped up in our dining room, which you walk through to get to both the living room and kitchen. We see them every day, and it’s a great reminder of where we want to be. It keeps our debt and our goals at the forefront of our minds.
Other visual reminders could be a debt chain or picture of a vacation spot. This is our debt chain:
Each chain represents $100. I’ll admit, when I first created it, I was overwhelmed with how long it was. However, the satisfaction of tearing those rings off every month is indescribable! You could make each ring represent however much you want. Use pretty paper to match your décor, or mark every 10th ring with a different color.
Find what visuals work for you and use them. A constant reminder of your goals is a great way to keep yourself motivated and on the path to financial success.
Starting these steps can feel daunting the first month or two. However, seeing your progress is a great motivator and can really help you keep on your financial path. The satisfaction of successfully reaching your goals will be payment enough for all your hard work!
Do you have any other steps you use to set yourself up to become financially successful? Share them in the comments below!
Printable Debt & Savings Trackers Just for You!
Use these free debt & savings tracking printables to help you track and achieve all of your financial goals!