Have you set any goals for 2016? I’m not talking about resolutions…those last about as long as an ice cube on the equator. I mean specific, measurable goals with a deadline. The kinds of goals that can be broken down into do-able chunks so you can see your progress.
I mentioned a few days ago that Jay & I have some home improvement goals, and to be honest, it feels a little like trying to eat an elephant. But we’re taking it one bite at a time, knowing that each bite gets us closer to the end result we want, and understanding that part of achieving the goals is making sure we can afford them!
If you have goals with a financial component…like taking classes or buying a car or simply purchasing gifts for Christmas without going into debt, then now is the time to get your finances in order. Start by writing those goals down and be sure to write down WHY that goal is important to you. Maybe you want to take a class because it will help you advance at your job and provide a better life for yourself or your family. Perhaps you want a more reliable car so you can safely transport your children to school and activities. And it would seem that it would be easier to enjoy watching your loved ones open Christmas gifts if you didn’t have the worry of how you were going to pay the bills when they come. Whatever your goal, remind yourself WHY it’s important so you can stay motivated to reach it.
Once you know WHY you’ve set your goals then you’ll need to figure out HOW you’re going to do it. A budget is a great place to start. The WHY article is the first post in a “How to Budget” series I wrote a few weeks ago and the HOW of creating a budget starts here. But if you’re already working on a budget and you just need some fresh inspiration or a jump start for your 2016 savings, how about these ideas?
1 – Start Your Own Christmas Club
Does your bank offer a “Christmas Club” account? I remember the books of Christmas Club deposit slips that my bank offered years ago. You’d tear out one deposit slip each week and deposit the designated amount into your Christmas Club account. There was nothing magic about it. It was just a savings account with a cute name and dedicated deposit slips. But the idea of having a special fund set aside and a routine of depositing into that fund helped a lot of people afford presents.
Why not set up your own Christmas Club? Either open a separate, no-fee account at your bank so you can keep the money set apart and untouched. If you can’t find a no-fee account in your area you could simply get a shoebox or clean jar or a cute piggy bank and hide it someplace in your house. You’ll miss a little bit of interest, but not much these days, and you’ll skip the fees. Just be sure you do not touch the money you set aside each week until you’re ready to shop for Christmas gifts. And yes, the Christmas Club philosophy of setting aside a sum each week could apply to tuition or the purchase of a car or the down payment on a house, too!
Here’s a free downloadable chart you can use to track your Christmas Club. More free charts to track your progress toward other goals are available later in this post.
2 – Give Up a Lower Priority
This is a common suggestion but I want to put it in the context of your goals. Give up your daily trip to the coffee shop, your weekly pizza delivery, or some other lower priority and save the money you’d have spent. Use the savings for a higher priority in your life like the class or the car.
Along those lines, you might give up some free time and take on a side job to earn a little extra. Jay & I didn’t want to compromise our priorities for ministry, home education, and paying for our children’s university classes, but we did want to do some home improvements. We gave up some free time and picked up a couple of side jobs that allow us to maintain our highest priorities while funding the home repairs. These side jobs aren’t glamourous but they aren’t forever, either. They’re simply a means to an end…doing more of what we want to do in life without going into debt to do it.
3 – Find a Gimmick
Yes, I’m actually suggesting you find a gimmick if it helps motivate you. Have you seen the 52-week savings plan floating around on social media? The idea is that you set aside the number of dollars corresponding to the week of the year. So this week, the first week of the year, you’d set aside one dollar. You put two dollars into savings during week two, three dollars during week three, and so on until you add the final 52 dollars to your savings account during the last week of the year.
Another gimmick is to create a chart to track your progress. This one really works! I provided a chart for destroying debt here but you could create any type of chart, graph, thermometer, or time line that you like to visually represent your progress toward your financial goal.
You may remember from the “Getting Out of Debt” post that I’m not a graphic artist. I do, however, believe that visual reminders of goals really help, so I’ve created a few free downloadable charts that you can use to track your goals. Some are specific but there’s a “$avings” chart for any savings goals that might not be covered by the other four. Suggestions for setting up the charts are in the “Getting Out of Debt” post.
If you are a gifted with graphics and want to share a free downloadable chart of your own, please post the jpeg on my Facebook page or send it to Leigh at A Chat Over Coffee dot come so I can share it here. Thanks!
People who save the most money tend to have the most money, regardless of the way they save it. Resist the temptation to spend the money you’re supposed to save or to spend your accumulated savings until you’re ready to spend it according to your long-term priorities, not your short-term desire for pizza or cute shoes. It feels great to reach your goal and it’ll build your confidence as you tackle the next one!
Why are you trying to save more money?
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