As the end of the year draws closer, it’s time to think about what I want to achieve in the next 12 months and beyond.
In previous years, I have always made a list of goals on New Years Eve and placed them in an envelope ready to open on New Years Eve the following year.
It’s something I have always done privately and never shared. But as sharing helps me to focus and keeps me accountable, I thought this time I’d share a goal with you and provide you with some tips on how you can go about planning your end of year goals too.
When I worked in the corporate world of banking, having a plan to achieve goals was fundamentally one of the most important tools you used. It underpinned future promotions, showing managers what you were capable of and gave you a pathway to help you achieve what you want. It can also be applied to personal goals, for example if you want to lose weight or retire.
We spoke about goal setting a lot in banking and from my early banking career I was shown that I should always keep my goals SMART.
SMART is an acronym for – Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely. It’s used so you can see exactly what you need to do to achieve your goals.
It turns your dreams into reality
SMART is explained in more detail below;
S – Specific
Don’t just generalise and say I want to be debt free or I want a new job. Be more specific and write down exactly how you are going to achieve this.
For example, you may want to be debt free, get a new job or start a new business. You may even want to retire early.
- Will you try and increase your income, if so, by how much?
- Will you look for another job or start a side hustle?
- Will you need to gain extra experience?
- Are there people who could mentor you that you could contact?
- Are there courses you could do to help you stand out from the crowd?
- Will you need further education or qualifications?
- What is your outstanding debt? If you want to pay it off in 2 years, how much will you need to pay off each month to reach your goal?
M – Measurable
How will you measure your progress? Weekly or monthly? And how will you track this? If you’re on a debt payoff journey, will you review it each time you’re paid? Or at the end/start of the month when all the bills are paid?
A – Attainable
Are your goals reachable in the time limit you give yourself? What are the limitations, if any? Is there something in your way to stop you? If you want to be debt free in a year, can you afford to make the monthly payments to make this happen, or do you need to earn more, review the budget or get another job? If you want to go for a new job, will you need to find childcare? And if so, could you afford it?
R – Relevant
Do your goals align with your long-term plans of what you want to achieve? If you want to be debt free, why? Is this so you can reduce your working hours, give up work or afford to buy a bigger house?
T – Timely
Set a realistic end date. If your end date is a few years away, it may be helpful to break it up into monthly and yearly updates so it keeps you motivated. There’s no point in saying you want to be debt free in 1 year if you don’t have enough disposable income to make overpayments. In this case, you’ll need to either earn more or extend the end date.
When setting goals;
1) Write down all the goals you want to achieve in your life.
You may find goals on your list you won’t realistically get to for years but put them down anyway. I always look at immediate goals and those I want to accomplish first, followed by those within five years and then ten years.
You may find you have a really long list and this is good!! Some goals may feel unachievable right now but that’s ok.
Put them where you can see them. I have a notice board in my bedroom so I see them as soon as I wake up in the morning.
2) Put the goals into categories
For example, if you have a number of goals linked to health, like drink more water, go to the gym and lose a stone put them all under a ‘health’ category. I have categories for my main job, my side hustles, health, debt, saving and investing.
3) Look at your list and highlight what you want to achieve the most/first.
You may find that goals on your list naturally follow each other. For example, if you’re paying off debt, need to save for a deposit and want to buy a house, these would in most cases naturally follow each other but that being said, there is nothing wrong with paying off debt and saving for a house at the same time. It all depends on individual circumstances.
4) Take your first goal and apply the SMART acronym.
5) Review your goals regularly and at least every year.
I always feel that my mind naturally wants to review my goals every year before the New Year starts, but you can do it whenever feels right for you. It’s ok for goals to change and for new ones to be added. It’s also ok to have a break and take some time away from the focus. I am a goal orientated person and like working towards something but not everyone is like this. It’s your journey and your life so you do what’s best for you.
Here is an example of one of my goals.
Goal: Debt free
I want to pay off £16,695.42 as soon as possible. I can afford £800 a month so it will take me 1 year and 7 months to pay off.
- This calculation is worked out by £16,695.42 / £800 = 20.9 (months)
- 20.9 / 12 = 1.74 years
- If I can increase this payment to £1000 a month, it will take me 1 year 4 months
- If I want to be debt free in 1 year, I need to pay £1391.29 a month (16,695.42/12 months).
I will do this by:-
- Using all income earnt from; my courier job, Vinted sales, CMS (Child Maintenance Service) to pay towards the debt, this will be mostly be overpayments.
- Reviewing the budget and cutting any expenses.
- Once I start being paid monthly (from the end of January), I will be drawing food and petrol amounts out in cash for the entire month.
- Take my cards out of my phone wallet and not carrying them at all times.
- Continue to do no spend months through out the year.
- Contribute to sinking funds monthly to avoid large expected bills, like MOT and vet bills.
- Weekly meal planning
- Daily spend tracking
Every month when I have made my three credit card payments, I will check the overall balance and add it to a spreadsheet so I can see the amount decreasing. This motivates me. I also post my progress to my Instagram page because I find the finance community inspires me to keep going.
£800 a month to debt is achievable on my current income. I have a plan in place to go for a promotion and plan to increase my emergency fund to £2000 first as a priority. My car cost this amount in 2021 in repairs which impacted my payments made towards debt so I don’t want that to happen again.
In January my income will be changing from weekly to monthly so I need to leave enough to cover this before making overpayments on debt.
My side hustle of being a courier has now become a second job. But I can still do this without needing extra childcare because I take my daughter along with me.
Becoming debt free will allow me to buy a bigger house in a nicer area. Currently because of the debt payments, I am unable to borrow enough on a mortgage to achieve this.
One year 7 months, although seems forever away is achievable and is the worse case scenario. My debt free debt is July 2023.
I think it’s important not to be disheartened when you finally see the date (like I am). You will achieve your goals. Honestly, seeing that date makes me feel down but before I used SMART, I’d only made a generic goal of ‘being debt free in a year’ which when you look at what the monthly payment is to achieve this, it was an almost impossible task – almost, because nothing’s impossible, right?
It makes me a laugh a little that I have so many of these tools like SMART in my head but I never really applied them to my debt free journey. And I don’t even know why. Maybe I thought it motivated me more to feel I only had one year left of this incredibly hard debt pay off journey. But actually when I think about it, it makes me feel more sad at the end of the year when I haven’t reached my goal.
But now I have set a SMART goal and know my debt free date is July 2023.
And although it seems like forever away, its a goal that should be achieved based on my presumptions above. My debt free date of July 2023 is at the end of the day the worse case scenario. I’m always going to try and make it happen quicker, as I’m sure you all will too!
Sounds like a solid goal you have there. Wishing you all the best with your debt clearing. I myself have never really put enough thought into turning my goals SMART, but more and more I have been realising the importance of going from vague to concrete. Anyway, thanks for this post!
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Thank you for your comment Stuart. Yes your absolutely right. Good luck with your goals too 🙂