In the past, I’ve made big lists of New Year’s resolutions, only to give up on most of them within a couple of months. Having several money goals to focus on is a bit much, and you can easily become overwhelmed as you try to multi-task your money goals for the coming year.
Instead of making a list of several money goals, try picking one big thing to accomplish during the year. The great thing about this approach is that you have one over-arching goal that can be broken down into manageable steps.
What’s the Most Important Financial Thing You Can Accomplish This Year?
Your first step is to consider your priorities. What’s the most important thing you can do with your money this year? What do you most want to accomplish? Perhaps you want to pay down debt. Maybe you want to work toward maxing out your retirement account contributions. Maybe you want to save up for a down payment on a house.
This year, I want to boost my income investing efforts. I haven’t done much with dividend stocks and other income investments, and I want to try and remedy that problem. That’s my big goal for the year.
Once you figure out the most important thing your money can do this year, it’s time to make a plan.
Break Your Big Goal Down
First of all, it’s important that you realize that focusing on one aspect of your finances for the year is not an excuse to neglect what you’re already doing with your money. If you automatically set aside $200 a month in an IRA for your retirement, don’t change that just because your focus is saving up for a down payment. If you already have solid money practices in place, keep with them. Use your financial resolution as a way to take one area to the next level, not as an excuse to drop all the good things you’re already doing.
Thinking of your big goal, acknowledge what you need to do in order to make it happen. What steps do you need to take to achieve your big goal. The great thing about choosing one thing to work on is that you have the entire year to work toward your accomplishment.
Let’s say you want to work up to the point where you can max out your IRA. For 2014, you can contribute up to $5,500 for the year. This comes to $458.33 a month. If you already contribute $200 a month, this means you need get to the point where you’re contributing another $258.33 each month. Chances are that you can’t just add that much each month immediately. You need to work up to it.
Perhaps you think you can free up $58.33 immediately. Go ahead and start contributing that, and then start seeing where you can find more money. Whether it’s cutting back on things you don’t need, or whether it’s earning more money, you can gradually make the changes in your life that lead to the point where, by the end of the year, you are contributing $458.33 each month to your IRA. It’s small steps throughout the year, but you’ll reach your goal — and it will be easier to max out your IRA each year going forward. If the contribution limit is raised, you’ll more easily be able to add a little bit more each month, since you can break it down.
This process works with other money goals as well. Breaking it down and focusing on one objective can help you get your finances in order and make significant progress.