Most things in life take time, effort, and discipline. Whether you’re saving up to buy your first car, home, or fund your upcoming nuptials — setting short-term financial goals is key to reaching your long-term wealth objectives.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed right now — that’s OK. Across the globe, we’re facing uncertainty. Managing that while also reaching for your goals can feel impossible.
The good news is, it only feels overwhelming. No matter where you’re at financially today, you can still reach your long-term plans by setting short-term savings goals now. Here’s how:
4 steps for short-term financial planning success
If you have the desire to reach those long-term financial milestones, you’ll need a solid, short-term strategy in place to keep you on track. But, as Desirae Odjick of Half Banked points out, your short-term financial planning strategy needs to be realistic and sustainable, especially in today’s climate.
“Figuring out how to balance them and not give up everything I liked at the same time has been a process, and at the beginning, I way overcorrected and tried to achieve my goals by brute force and radical frugality. Let’s just say it didn’t last, and it wasn’t a solid long-term strategy,” Odjick says.
Here are some steps you can take today, to make sure you’re working toward your financial goals in a realistic, sustainable way.
1. List out your short-term financial goals
Start by thinking about the next five years and what you’d like to accomplish. Maybe you want to go back to school. Or add a four-legged member to your family. Or swap out your old furniture with pieces from your favorite custom shop.
Whatever your short-term financial goals might include — commit those to paper. The more specific and complete your list is, the more clear your overall picture will become. And when you write down every single one of your goals, you’ll be in a better position to work toward all of them — not just one or two.
2. Set a savings timeline and budget for each goal
Next, list out the next 5 years. Take the goals you identified earlier and assign each one to a year.
Next, you’ll want to look into how much each of your short-term financial goals will cost. Do your due diligence on this one, because the more accurate your projected costs are, the more precise your actual saved amount will be. Map out how much you need to set aside each month in order to reach your goals, and work that into your personal budget.
Keep in mind that what you can set aside each month might change. If your work hours have been cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you might only be able to set aside a few dollars each month and that’s OK. You can work up to bigger amounts as your situation changes.
If you don’t have a personal budget and aren’t sure where you start — there are plenty of free budgeting programs available online to get you moving in the right direction.
3. Start earning interest
Just because money doesn’t grow on trees, doesn’t mean you can’t grow the money you already have. If you’re serious about reaching your short-term savings goals, you will need to earn interest on the money you’re saving.
Consider opening a high-interest savings account for your short-term financial planning needs. Look for savings accounts at banks or financial institutions known for higher-than-average interest rates, the option to bank online, and exceptional customer service.
The sooner you put your money into a high-interest account, the better off you’ll be.
4. Give yourself a break
You’ve identified your short-term goals, created a timeline, and calculated how much money you need to save each month to reach them. Your strategy is mapped out before you, and as exciting as it is, you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the numbers.
Depending on your income and cost-of-living expenses — it may not be possible for you to reach all of your goals. At least not right now. To make saving for your goals more manageable, consider the following:
- Give yourself some breathing room and adjust your timeline. Maybe your furniture has another year or two of life left in it. Perhaps your dream kitchen makeover can wait another few years. If your goals are important to you and worth achieving, putting them off a little while longer won’t stop you from reaching them.
- Remember that things are changing rapidly right now and you’re doing the best you can. Keep your eye on the future and hang in there. Don’t beat yourself up if you have to take a break from saving or if you’re not progressing as quickly as you’d like.
Preparing for the future
If you have outstanding credit card debt, unpaid medical bills, or late payments hanging around — make sure you take care of them before going after new short-term financial goals. If you need help paying your bills right now, many institutions are willing to work with customers. Contact your creditors as soon as possible to see what options are available to you.
And remember, slow and steady wins the race. Even if you miss a few steps along the way, you’ll still reach your goals in the end if you stay focused.