With scary statistics like 59% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, or 67% of Americans struggle to pay a $1,000 emergency, we need to step up our game. Know what your short term financial goals are to avoid these kinds of situations.
When you make financial goals, it is not enough to hope you’ll get there. Making a plan significantly increases the likelihood of you meeting the goal.
However, be careful not to set too many goals and overwhelm yourself. That’s where short-term financial goals come in. They are more attainable and a great way to learn new financial habits.
What Is Meant By A Short Term Goal?
Short term goals don’t take as much time as long term goals. They don’t take as much time, and you can meet them quickly, keeping you motivated to meet the next one.
Financial goals are goals that you want to meet with your money or finances over a specific period. While the day-to-day processes will get your attention, it is crucial to focus on bigger goals.
When you set short term financial goals, you have to make an exact plan. You can do that by setting SMART goals:
- Specific goals that specify what you want to achieve. For example, I want to make $1,200 per month from my side hustles.
- Measurable goals that break down your goals. For example, I want to make an additional $100 per month in side hustle income to have $1,200 per month at the end of Year 1.
- Achievable goals with action steps. What small steps are you going to take to make the goal possible for you?
- Realistic goals will encourage you to keep going. Avoid getting discouraged by how big the goal is. For example, I will approach a potential client daily for the first 30 days.
- Time-based goals have an end date. For example, I want to reach my goal of $1,200 from my side hustle in one year.
How Long Are Short Term Goals?
Make sure you stay motivated by giving yourself 90 days to accomplish your short-term goals. As a maximum, short-term financial goals should be one year long. Ideally, short-term goals are steps to reach your other financial goals.
If you have significant financial goals, try breaking them up into multiple short term goals. You make them more achievable, and you will be motivated to go for them.
1. Review Your Financial Year
Start your short-term financial goals by reviewing your financial year. What has happened over the past year? How did it go with your finances? What worked, and what didn’t? What would you like to change going forward?
Reviewing your year will set you up for a good next year. You can implement the best practices of the things that you enjoyed over the last year. You can also stop doing the things that make you feel overwhelmed and the things that you didn’t like. Jumpstart the new year!
2. Set & Track Your Goals
If you feel like this year will be the year that you will take control of your finances, setting goals is essential. Setting goals and tracking them will ensure that your dreams for this year will stay top of mind the entire year.
A couple of short-term financial goals that you may want to implement:
- Check your budget monthly.
- Track your spending weekly.
- Automate your savings.
3. Track Your Spending
Tracking your spending is an integral part of personal finance. While there are many ways to do it, try to find a tracking method that fits you. I use a spreadsheet in Google Drive and add all my monthly expenses when the month is over.
There are other ways as well, like tracking everything through your bank and labeling your transactions. There are also tracking apps out there that automatically track your expenses. Companies like Mint and Personal Capital are both great for tracking.
Find a way of tracking expenses that you like, and you will gain tremendous insights into what you spend. I reduced my spending by 20% the moment I started tracking. It increases your awareness, which can influence your spending.
4. Automate Your Savings
One of the best things to do after reviewing your year and tracked your spending is to automate your savings. Automating your savings is a way of paying yourself first.
You can do it in two years:
- Determine how much money you want to save every month, and transfer that amount to your savings or investment account when your salary comes in.
- Use an app that will automatically save money for you. Acorns is an example of an app that rounds up your purchases and invests the month for you. You can also set up a checking account or retirement account with Acorns.
5. Save $1,000
At the beginning of the year, set aside $1,000 in case of emergency. When you don’t have a full-on emergency fund yet, focus on this short-term financial goal first. If something like a car repair comes up, you want to cover it without going into debt.
Focus on saving your year-end bonus, try to cut your spending around the holidays, or save your tax return when you receive it. Having a buffer for when things happen in life will give you peace of mind that it’s worth the work.
6. Create An Emergency Fund
Having an emergency fund is among the basics of finance. You don’t want to go into debt because you have to pay a $500 car repair. That is what an emergency fund is for.
Ideally, you would save up between three and six months of living expenses. When you encounter a challenging situation, like the loss of a job or an extended period of sick leave, you can cover that without stressing about it.
Creating an emergency fund creates peace of mind, which should never be underestimated.
7. Read A Financial Book
I enjoy reading books. Reading books is a way to get into the brain of some of the most bright minds for a couple of bucks. My favorite books include:
- “Rich Dad Poor Dad”
- “Your Money Or Your Life”
- “The Simple Path To Wealth”
- “The Alchemist”
- “Work Optional – Retire Early the Non-Penny-Pinching Way”
8. Payoff A Debt
Paying off debt can be daunting and overwhelming. When you are not sure where to start, you can begin by paying off just one debt.
Mathematically it would make sense to start by paying off your highest-interest debt. When this debt is one of your highest debts, you can choose whether or not you want to start there. If you find yourself getting overwhelmed again, start by paying off a smaller amount of debt.
The principle of debt payoff is that when you pay off one debt, you can use the freed money to pay off your next debt. That’s when you start to see progress.
9. Set A Budget
While budgeting has a lousy reputation, knowing where you will spend your money is an important financial goal. Setting a budget may be challenging at first, but it will pay off. Start with setting a budget for one month as a short term financial goal, and see where it takes you.
- 50/30/20 budgeting method, where you spend 50% on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% for savings.
- Dave Ramsey budgeting percentages is a more precise and guided budgeting method.
- Set up your budgeting method according to your personal preferences.
10. Budget For The Holidays
It can sound a little early to start about the holidays, but celebrations in November and December cost many of us a lot of money. It can be stressful to go into the fall, trying to get the money saved for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other festivities.
I would recommend you try to budget how much money you will go to spend for the holidays. Budgeting for the holidays is a great way to take away the stress, just knowing that you’re good to go when the holidays arrive.
You can decide to cash flow the holidays from your salary, or you can choose to set up sinking funds. Sinking funds are funds that you will add to every month, so you have enough money when you need to use it.
11. Take A No-Spend Challenge
If it is hard for you to stick to a budget or have money left at the end of the month, try a no-spend challenge. It doesn’t have to be an entire year, 30 days will be enough for most people.
You will become very aware of your spending habits, and you will learn a lot during your no-spend challenge. If you are spending without thinking about it, you will become aware of what you’re spending your money on. If you don’t track your spending, this will be an even more eye-opening experience.
12. Stop Using Your Credit Cards
Credit cards are great if you can pay off the balance in full every month. When you can’t pay off the balance at the end of the month, you will be charged high-interest rates.
When you find yourself carrying on a balance from one month to the next, stop using your credit cards. You can start by stop using them just for one month or make the step smaller by not purchasing anything additional on your card.
A debit card can be a great alternative to a credit card. You see how much money you have spent instantly, and your bank account balance reflects how much money you have.
13. Check Your Investment Accounts
Are you currently investing? If you have taken steps to invest your money, it is time to review and check your accounts. When you have made a target allocation, make sure to check if you meet that allocation. Otherwise, it is time to rebalance your portfolio.
If you haven’t taken steps to invest your money, it’s time to start investing your first dollar.
When you are going to check your investment accounts, also check your retirement accounts. You and your employer are putting a monthly contribution to that account. If you haven’t checked what you’re investing in or want to have a specific allocation between stocks and bonds, check them.
More specifically, you should check:
- What are you investing in?
- What are the fees of your investments? I would personally stay under 0.2% when possible. If you invest in low-cost index funds like Vanguard, the expense ratios are very low.
14. Know Your Net Worth
After you’ve checked your investment account, it is time to calculate your net worth. Take a couple of minutes to log into all your accounts and sum up the assets and liabilities. When you know your net worth, you know where you stand financially at this very moment.
Setting goals around net worth is a great way to measure your progress. For example, I am currently working towards financial independence. I have a FI number of $300,000, and I measure my net worth to track how my progress is going.
If you want to up your game, try to calculate your liquid net worth, which is only your liquid assets combined with your discounted illiquid assets.
15. Calculate How Much Money You Need To Retired
When you track your net worth because your goal is retirement, it is crucial to know how much money you need for retirement. You want to see if you can be retired when you want to be retired, and you want to know where you are now.
How much money you need to be retired completely depends on your desired lifestyle when you’re in retirement. There’s the rule of 25 that states you can calculate your total need of retirement funds by multiplying your annual future retirement spending by 25.
For example, if you want to spend $24,000 per year in retirement, you need to have $600,000 (24,000 * 25).
16. Calculate Your Savings Rate
Your savings rate is an important metric if you want to reach your financial goals in the long term. Your savings rate is essentially your savings as a percentage of your income.
For example, if you make $2,000 per month and save $100, you have a savings rate of 5%. Your savings rate is essential because of the higher your savings rate, the shorter your time to retirement.
17. Invest In Education
Investing in education is crucial when you want to meet your short term financial goals. It can be done in all different ways, and you must pick a way that is right for you.
You can read books to increase your financial knowledge, or you can learn to invest.
18. Create A Will
Creating a will is a task on the to-do list for ages, but you never actually come around and do it. I want to remind you that this is a critical task that you should take care of immediately. I’ve witnessed people pass suddenly, and without a will, it can become a very messy situation.
It won’t take hours, and many companies will help you online. You can use their templates and add anything that you want to be included. Within 30 mintues, you should be done.
19. Save 20% Of Your Income
You know how to calculate your savings rate in steps 15, and now it is time to put it into practice. Try to save 20% of your income this year. For some people, this will be relatively easy, while it will take a lot of effort for others.
It is not about meeting this goal whatever it takes, it is about changing your financial habits and making sure that you save money every month. You can start by tracking your savings rate for the month and try to get to 20%. When you strive for that goal every month, you will get there over time!
20. Meet With A Financial Planner
Finances can be complicated and overwhelming. If you want to get on top of your finances, seeking a financial planner may be the right decision for you. They can help you review your current financial situation.
21. Invest In Real Estate
You can invest in real estate by buying a rental property, which means you invest money in a single rental unit. You loan money from the bank, and you get a monthly recurring revenue.
There are also real estate crowdsourcing opportunities, where you invest your money in $50 increments and get a return on your investment. You only invest the money, and it is entirely passive. If you want to learn more, here are the best real estate crowdfunding opportunities in Europe.
22. Invest In Peer-To-Peer Lending
Peer-to-peer lending is one of my favorite investing means because it is simple, and anyone can participate. You start investing in loans of your peers, which gives you a yearly interest percentage. Currently, I earn between 9-10% annually on the loans I provide to peers.
You invest in loans on a marketplace, which means a third party does their quality checks and assesses the risk of the investment. It is entirely passive!
There are dozens on peer-to-peer platforms; my favorites include:
23. Contribute To Your Retirement
Contributing to your retirement funds early on is crucial for your retirement. The more money you put in now, the more that money will be worth later. Because of compounding returns, your money will earn you money over time.
If you contribute the maximum of $19,500 into your 401(k), you will have $282,904 after ten years. Of that money, $87,904 comes from the compounding effect, so your money is earning money.
If you contribute $19,500 and expand the horizon to 20 years, you will have $851,444. Of that money, $461,444 comes from your money earning money. That’s more than half!
If your employer puts an additional amount toward your retirement accounts, it’s free money! The earlier you start, the more you contribute, the longer your money has the opportunity to grow, and the sooner you will reach financial freedom.
24. Make Extra Money
Set a goal for yourself to make extra money this year. There are dozens of ways to do that. My favorite include testing websites, walking dogs, transcription jobs, blogging and many more! I’ve compiled a list of the best side hustles that you can do to make extra money. My personal favorite is starting a blog.
You can use the money toward your other short-term financial goals and accelerate your progress.
Cleaning up these things can give you more satisfaction than you may think. If you want to step up your game, make sure to sell the items for extra cash. Especially if you need money now, this is a great way to do that.
You will be surprised by how much money you will get for the things you have in your home.
26. Save Money Where You Can
Saving extra money is not always possible. However, it is always good to strive to save money where you can.
I am very passionate about spending money on the things you value, while you ruthlessly cut back on the things you don’t value. When you are tracking your expenses, try to see where you can save money. What are the things that don’t give you joy? Things you don’t use? Try to cut back on those to save money, when you want and can.
27. Meal Prep
If you are on the lookout for challenging short-term financial goals, meal prep is one of them. It is a hard one for me, even though I know how beneficial it is. Meal prepping saves you a lot of time, money, and hassle. You don’t have to think about what you are going to eat at the moment, which will result in healthier choices most of the time.
You don’t have to commit to meal planning and prepping an entire year ahead. Try it for a month, or even a week, and be amazed by the results. You will have a lot of time left, and you will save money at the same time.
If you want to try meal planning and don’t know where to start, try the $5 Meal Plan. They provide you with customized meal plans, complete recipes, and done-for-you shopping lists. You don’t have to plan, just shop and prepare. Their meals average $2 per person, which is incredibly low.
28. Bring Lunch To Work
Eating while you’re at work costs us a lot of money every year. I mean, how much money can you save by bringing lunch to work? On average, Americans spend almost $2,500 per year on lunches. That’s a lot of money.
While it may take some more time to prepare your lunch ahead of time, it will save you so much money. Also, you will eat healthier as a result. Win-win!
29. Spend Less On Groceries
Food spending, and thus groceries, is one of the three categories people spend the most money on. Together with housing and transportation, food spending is probably one of the highest spending categories. It means that groceries are also a category where you could save a lot of money.
It is important to start with where you are now. How much are you currently spending on groceries? How much do you ideally want to spend on groceries? Try to set a realistic goal, where you don’t need to live on rice and beans all month. I spend very little compared to others on groceries. Read more about how I spend around $70 per month on groceries.
30. Make Dinner At Home
When you’ve realized how much money you can save at the grocery store, you can also start to realize how much money you can save by making dinner at home. Making dinner at home can be the perfect short-term financial goal to save money and become healthier.
In the beginning, it will take time to get used to how to plan, cook, and clean. Over time, you will get accustomed to it. I find home-cooked meals tastier nowadays.
Don’t be too hard on yourself. Start by increasing the dinners at home once per week. The next week, add another one. You will find yourself getting used to it and getting healthier and wealthier.
If you have a hard time thinking about what you want to make, try the $5 Meal Plan. They provide you with customized meal plans, complete recipes, and done-for-you shopping lists. You don’t have to plan at all, just get the shopping done and start cooking. Their meal plans average $2 per person per meal, which will save even more money.
If you didn’t have a plan what to do in the new year, here are 30 ideas of short-term financial goals that you can set for yourself. You can start these goals any time of the year, as long as you stick to them.
Start working on becoming fiscally responsible, and your finances will keep improving over time!
Image Credit: gradyreese