We can all be guilty of setting ourselves goals that are simply too vague to be of any use. Doing this can be tempting because we feel like we’ve been productive, yet there’s no accountability to enforce any action from us.
This is where SMART goals come in. SMART is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-based.
It sounds more complicated than it is. Each one of these words helps to ensure that a goal can not only be achieved, but that it will be. Whether you’re looking to build a better credit score, to save money, or to stop being reliant on loan organisations or direct lenders, if you stick to this framework when setting your financial goals, the chances are you won’t go far wrong.
Make your goals specific
Simply saying ‘I want to save more money’ is unlikely to actually help you save money, because it’s not specific enough. It leaves too much wiggle room for not following through. For example, if you’ve got no set amount you want to save in a month, then saying no to treats here and there is going to be a lot harder, whereas if you know that you want to save £200 a month, then you’ll naturally adjust your spending habits to meet this goal.
Specific goals promote accountability, and go much further towards ensuring that you follow through and meet your targets. If you consistently struggle to reach your goals then it might be worth adjusting them slightly, but as long as you’re taking steps towards them each day, then that’s the important thing.
Ensure your goals are measurable
Having measurable goals is vital to your success. Without this, you’ll have no idea what kind of progress you’re making. One way that you can do this is to have regular check-ins to ensure that you’re on track to reaching the final end goal.
Let’s take the previous example of saving £200 a month. Why not schedule a weekly check-in to track how much you’ve saved in the last seven days? This allows you to constantly stay on top of your progress, and to make adjustments for the following week or weeks in order to reach your monthly saving goal.
Include attainable action-points
It’s all well and good having a goal, but if you don’t have a plan on how to execute it, then it ends up being a pipe dream. This is where action-points come in. To save a set amount money each month it can be useful to consider what spending is non-negotiable, and what can be adjusted to get you closer to your goals.
For example, if you’re someone who likes to get a takeaway coffee every weekday morning, you could make an action point to either cut back to one or two days a week, or to stop doing this altogether. Or, if you tend to buy your lunch during the day, try making a packed lunch instead. You’d be surprised how quickly the pennies will rack up, moving you incrementally closer to your goals.
Budgeting is also a great way to implement attainable action-points into your daily life. Setting yourself clear monthly and/or weekly spending limits for the different areas of your life – for example, groceries, household bills, socialising, clothing – then you’ll be more likely to make decisions that will benefit your future goals, with these spending limits in mind.
Keep your goals realistic
Aiming for the stars is great, and for a long-term goal there’s nothing wrong with it, but your smaller, everyday goals need to be realistic. For example, if you’re currently spending all your monthly income and saving none of it, hoping to save £2,000 each month is likely to be too lofty a goal, at least initially.
Take into consideration your financial commitments each month, your total monthly income, and go from there. Once you know what expenditure you have to be making, it’s a lot easier to set realistic goals for how to spend the remainder of your money.
Add a timespan
Finally, it’s important to set a timespan within which you’d like to achieve your goals. It’s easy to put off our goals and to leave them for another day, which inevitably never comes due to this cycle of procrastination. Instead, setting yourself a deadline for achieving your goals is a sure-fire way to stay on top of them.
Consider your work; your boss doesn’t give you a task without a deadline, because if they did then nothing would get done, so why is it any different for your own personal goals? Adding a deadline to your target will help to keep you motivated.
At Oakam we want to help you take charge of your financial goals today, and setting yourself SMART goals is the first step. If you follow this framework for setting targets, you’ll have all bases covered and will be confident in the knowledge that your goals are within your reach.
Having a bad credit history is not the same as being in financial difficulty. If you think you are in financial difficulty or are finding it difficult to pay your bills on time, you should seek an alternative solution. To get debt advice information, we advise seeking independent advice from an impartial service like Citizens Advice or a qualified Financial Advisor.