Any inspirational book or seminar will tell you that you need to write down clear, concise and measurable goals in order to successfully plan your future. Almost any life goal has a financial aspect to it.
You could have a goal to have a million dollars in investments, but it’s more exciting to incorporate a vision of your life such as, “I need to save $50,000 to be able to quit my job and live in Belize for a year so I can write a best selling novel.”
Setting Measurable Goals
You can keep this vision in your mind so it’s less painful when you walk past the shoe sale and bring your bag lunch to work. I believe money should be a tool, not the ultimate goal.
Related: How To Set Short Term Goals
That said, my own goals are actually quite modest. For the next year I will:
- Maximize my TFSA contribution. This account is part of my long-term retirement strategy so I plan to contribute the max every year.
- Begin minor renovations on my 30+-year-old house that seriously needs some updating. This not only will increase its value, it will make it more attractive to me and hopefully make the house more saleable if / when we decide to move.
- Visit my elderly parents more often. They still live in their own home, but in another province and I want to check up on them in person every three or four months or so to see if everything is OK.
- I currently work part-time so I don’t technically get paid vacations. I do however get vacation pay on my bi-weekly paycheques. I am depositing this amount into my savings account to reduce the sting of not only paying for my holiday, but that I also have no earnings while I’m away.
- I want to take a course or two – perhaps upgrade computer skills and learn a new language for an upcoming trip to Europe (part of my medium-term goals).
These should all be achievable with a little more work and motivation and a little less procrastination to keep me on track. How do you set measurable goals for yourself?
What gets measured gets managed. It’s true in business and it is definitely true in personal finance. Every year most of us at work write down our short term goals and objectives for the year. Some people really dislike the process, but I love it. How else do you know where you stand?
The same approach can work for you at home. From simple objectives of increasing your net worth, reducing your debt, or contributing to your RRSP and TFSA, to more specific goals of changing careers, building a house, or creating & sticking to a family budget, writing down your short term goals and regularly checking in on your progress is critical to your financial success.
My Short Term Goals
I write down my short term goals at the beginning of the year. This year, I wanted to do the following:
1. Create a family budget – With my wife staying at home full time looking after our first child, we would be adjusting to single income living by March. I’ve never done a budget before, but I felt this was the right time to start tracking our spending to ensure that we could make this transition as smoothly as possible.
- Progress – I found a family budget in Excel on Google Docs that I customized for our own situation. The first tab is the overview of the entire year where I can forecast income and expenses. Then I have set up individual tabs representing the current month that I’m in. So far, so good…and here’s the link to check out the budget tool for yourself
2. Max out my TFSA contribution – At the beginning of the year I will contribute $5k to my TFSA, which is held at TD Waterhouse. I have a specific strategy for this account, which I will get into at a later post.
- Progress – Completed, I contributed $5,000 into my TFSA account in March.
3. Maximize Rewards Points – I have always been a big fan of collecting Air Miles rewards, but I wanted to find out if I was truly maximizing my dollars spent with the rewards I’ve been receiving. Turns out I wasn’t, so after careful research I chose the PC MasterCard, which offers 1000 points for every $100 spent. 20,000 points can be redeemed for $20 in free groceries.
- Progress – Completed. I use PC MasterCard to pay bills online and for day-to-day purchases, and still use my Air Miles AMEX when we go shopping at Costco.
4. Save $1,000/month – This is part of an intermediate goal of upgrading our house in the near future.
- Progress – this varies from month-to-month, but so far I’ve consistently saved at least $600/month, and hopefully by the end of the year I can get this up to $1000/month
5. Increase Net Worth by $50k – This is basically the culmination of the other 4 goals. With my TFSA contributions, pension contributions, dividends, market growth, bi-weekly mortgage payments (and super-low interest rates), and increased savings rate, this should be achievable.
- Progress – Increased net worth by $27k as of July 31st
So there you have it. Nothing too crazy, but it looks like I’m on the right track to meet or exceed all of my short term goals for the year. That probably means I set them too low 🙂
I have an investment that is fully redeemable without penalty and pays an annual interest rate of 4.74%, much higher than the so-called investment savings accounts out there. It is my personal chequing account.
If I keep a minimum balance of $1,000 in the account, and limit myself to only 10 withdrawals a month, my monthly service charge of $3.95 is waived. I deposit this fee to my savings account so it actually compounds.
If 10 withdrawals don’t work for your own budget, there are many other places to find extra money that doesn’t involve the ubiquitous quitting smoking and laying off the lattes.
Related: Ways To Save Money
Here is a couple off the top of my head:
- Some stores, in their flyers, print coupons worth 20% to 50% off your purchases or give you a gift card when you spend over a certain amount. These go beyond plain coupon clipping and can give you substantial savings; so don’t be too proud to use them. Michael’s, HBC, Bed Bath & Beyond and Superstore are a few that do this.
- Many customers have reward cards that earn points. Air Miles is the big one, but you can earn points at other stores that you can redeem for gift cards or pay for your purchase. HBC and Shoppers Drug Mart are a couple that do this. I have been known to purchase a good portion of my Christmas list with points.
I’m sure if you think about it you can discover a lot of ways to find extra money that you can deposit into your financial freedom account and watch it grow.