Posted on September 24th, 2021
As the temperatures drop and the leaves begin to change, you're bound to find yourself wondering, "How is it already fall?" The next few months are going to fly by and next thing you know, the year is over. This is your reminder not to let your goals fall by the wayside. (See what we did there?)
The end of September is a great time to regroup and revisit some of your financial goals ahead of the holiday season. Even if you've stuck to your financial plan all year long, the holidays can easily derail your best laid plans. A little splurge on Halloween decorations here, super-sizing your Thanksgiving dinner to a Turkducken there, and next thing you know December's budget is tighter than your pants after eating that Turducken dinner. And unfortunately, you can't unbutton tight finances to make them more comfortable.
If you set some goals at the beginning of the year, check in to see how you're doing. If something unexpected came up that negatively affected your progress, don't beat yourself up. Instead, take a realistic approach to what can be achieved in the next 3 months and adjust your goals.
Can you cut back on take out to free up some extra cash to add to your monthly 529 contributions? Or did a new baby mean suddenly you have more expenses to contend with for the next 18 years? Make sure your goal is adapted for you and how your family's situation has changed. If you have a new bundle of joy and you've already cut back on takeout to cover the cost of diapers (What are those things made of anyway? Fibers of gold?!), then maybe your goal can be to find creative ways to invite loved ones to contribute to your child's 529 plan instead?
If you're on track to meeting or exceeding your goals, why not set a fun, new savings goal that the whole family can get in on, like a vacation fund?
Feeling panicked that we're three quarters of the way through the year and you have yet to set any goals? No problem! Check out our blog, Crush Your Financial Goals for some goal setting basics as well as a free goal setting worksheet download. Rather late than never, right? You still have time to focus on your finances and feel proud of your progress at the end of the year.
Is starting 529 education savings plan one of your goals? Start a plan with no minimum deposit in less than 5 minutes by clicking the button below, then check it off your list.
Look at you! You eat goals for breakfast!
Say your goal is to add $900 to your emergency fund by the end of the year. If you're waiting to hit $900 before you celebrate, you'll likely lose motivation and interest after the first week or so, because $900 feels like an eternity away. The key to staying motivated is to repeatedly achieve manageable, incremental goals. So instead of setting a goal of saving $900 by the end of the year, set a goal of saving $10 a day.
That way, each day you can challenge yourself to find that $10 by making your lunch instead of eating out, or by pulling out some old board games for a family game night instead of renting the latest movie on pay-per-view.
You know that sense of accomplishment when you check something off a to do list? Yep, that's a little hit of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that provides instant gratification, and it plays a major role in your body's motivation and reward system. Use this science to help you stick to your goals with a visual calendar.
Get a piece of poster board and map out the next 3 months with a square for each day and hang it on your refrigerator or somewhere else you're likely to see often. Using stickers or colored markers, mark each square when you've achieved your goal for the day. So as soon as you finish making your lunch that will save you a trip to the drive-thru, put $10 into your savings (whether that be via bank transfer or even a physical savings jar), then color in today's square, or add a sticker. Instant dopamine hit! Soon you'll be looking at rows of colored squares. This visual representation of your progress will motivate you further to keep your streak going - no one likes breaking a streak.
Pro tip: Get the whole family involved! Assign each person their own color or sticker attributed to their own goal. Maybe each parent is striving to save $5 a day, and your kids are striving to be less wasteful. (Okay, you're striving to have less wasteful kids. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to.) For example, if your child has a habit of leaving a trail of half-full juice boxes in their wake, challenge them to finish one completely before opening another. Each day they put their juice box in the fridge and go back to the same juice box when they're thirsty later, they get a sticker. See which family member can keep their streak going the longest.
Think of these last 3 months as the final sprint at the end of a marathon- you've done most of the work, and the finish line is in sight, and now's not the time to let off the gas. You still have time to exceed your expectations and make a meaningful change to your finances.
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