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This is a more in-depth look at SMART Goals.
Ever tried to make a change in your life, or solve a problem you have, by setting a goal? Maybe your goal was too vague and it was hard to meet. Maybe your goal didn’t go where you thought, or it just didn’t motivate you. Here’s an easy way of SMART goal setting that will help you make the change you want.
Define your problem
Suppose you are struggling with meeting day-to-day expenses and along comes a brake job on your car. You put that on a credit card and hope for the best. Yet you know that’s not a good long-term way of handling it because soon you will be paying the minimum payment just to keep going on that card.
“I live paycheck to paycheck and it’s not enough.”
Turn your problem upside-down to state your need
What if you didn’t live paycheck to paycheck? What if you had enough?
Maybe you do have enough, if you had a spending plan and knew where the money was going. That’s a budget, and it can help you see what you’re doing so you can make sure you have enough.
Let’s try “I need to know what I’m spending and organize myself so I have enough for my needs.”
Write your SMART goal
Your goal now is to act on your need. You need to know most or all of these things to write a complete SMART goal for yourself.
That would be you in charge of this. If you get an accountability buddy, or a partner in this business, include them.
“My wife and I” may be who will do the actual work.
“My mother” may be an accountability person, someone you report your progress to or go to for help when stuck.
What and How
You are going to make a budget by listing all of your expenses and income and figure out what you can do without, or do differently, to have money to save.
This one is optional for you. Maybe you don’t need to say where, or maybe you need to say you will do this at home.
If you are going to work on this periodically, decide how often, maybe once or twice a month checking it over to make sure things are OK.
This is the big one. If you skimp on other points, don’t skimp on this. Your why is going to get you to do this and follow through. Are you sick of worrying or having arguments or asking your parents for extra funds? Make that your why. State it in positive terms.
SMART Goal setting is now easy
Now you can write your goal. Just go down the questions and write your input.
“I will make and use a budget that fits my income, reviewing at least monthly at home and discussing with my mother any need for adjustment, so I can quit worrying, stand on my own financially, and quit bothering her for money.”
For a full discussion of baby steps go here.
For illustrative purposes I’m going to run a few baby steps for this goal so you can see how it works.
- Find a place to work where you can leave stuff if you need to, but have a good work environment so you can concentrate.
- Gather information like receipts, checkbook, bills, bank statements–whatever tells you what’s coming in and going out.
- List all your income and then list all the things you spent on. Coffee, TV service, rides or car expenses, dry cleaning, haircuts, lunches, everything.
- Compare your income and expenses. What do you learn?
One of the best things about baby steps is that it’s like a list. You cross off what you’ve done and see progress. It’s why we keep them small. Especially at first, we need concrete successes to get momentum.
I’m not going beyond 4 because now you may need to make decisions about how to reach your goal of making your expenses fit your income. Are you going to cut expenses? Many would try that first.
Are you going to try got get a side hustle and earn the difference? Be sure to research that first. Many side hustles are good for quick cash but some are long-term propositions. So make researching side hustles a baby step. If you find one that fits, make trying it out another step.
And so on.
Changing conditions, changing goals
After you’ve worked on your first SMART goal you may have technically met it and yet you still have a problem.
You’ve got a budget but your life changes. Maybe you get scared of getting laid off. It happens. But that leaves you walking dogs and on unemployment, which won’t cover the basics. So an emergency fund? Good idea.
New problem: I don’t have any extra. I’m meeting my expenses now but what if I get laid off?
New goal: “I will cut out bought coffee in the morning and save $60 a month for an emergency fund to cover three months of income in case of job loss. I will review quarterly and problem-solve barriers with my mother. I want to rely on myself and not be a financial burden to my parents as an adult.”
Now you can set up baby steps. Here’s three to give you ideas:
- Invest no more than $60 in a coffeemaker, a thermal travel mug, and some coffee to get started.
- See if your employer will support your alloting $60 a month (however that fits into how you get paid) to be direct deposited to a savings account.
- If yes, open a savings account.
SMART Goal setting is crucial to getting the result you want, giving you a direction to go in. Hoping you will find that this method works for you. Take your time defining your problem, turn it upside down, and above all, get your why. That will give you the motivation to follow through.