How I Finally Fixed The One Thing I Was Doing Wrong With My Savings

By | Wednesday, June 08, 2016


We live in an era of social media where we are surrounded by goals, hashtagged within an inch of their lives — #squadgoals #brunchgoals and #relationshipgoals are standard fixtures in my social media universe, and I’m constantly surrounded by highly-filtered, overly-curated ideas of personal achievement. As annoying as they can be, however, the concept of a visual manifestation of goals does lend a certain tangibility to aspirations. Personally, introducing this concept into my financial life has bolstered my savings strategies in ways that I was not achieving without a specific end game in sight. Incorporating visual specificity into your savings goals is an engaging way to keep yourself focused, and motivated to reach your goals.

We all know the importance of having a robust savings plan and sticking to it to the best of our abilities in this haphazard and planning-averse waltz called life. However, when our focus is abstract, those goals can become very, well, abstract. For me, when I have thoughts in my head such as “I want to own property someday,” it’s much easier to justify (another) tote bag that I truly don’t need simply because it is on clearance at Target because someday seems so very far away. (Spoiler Alert: the more I think like this, the farther away it truly is.)

Saving for a specific goal or purchase has allowed the financial savvy within me to blossom, and has led me to some of the most fiscally fruitful periods of my life. Having a specific point in the future upon which to set my sights allows me to work in a more clear and thoughtful way towards success.

In the past, I have worked toward very precise debt-elimination goals. I overcame the aftermath of a financially-destructive break up, paid off credit card debt, and eliminated my student loans by employing intention in my savings, and having a detailed plan of action. I created spreadsheets, I crafted savings plans, I forecasted spending; I did all of these things because I was able to visualize completing a certain goal, and could focus on that point on the horizon. These goals have all been met, and I’m happy to say that I’m enjoying what I would classify as the most financially-secure period of my life.

So why then, have my savings been half-assed at best? I came to the conclusion a few weekends ago while strolling through a beautiful neighborhood with my boyfriend: I hadn’t gotten around to setting a concrete goal, such as purchasing one of these stupid-cute bungalows, towards which I could tenaciously aim my efforts. 

It’s easy to think of your financial goals, or even your ideal financial habits, as belonging to a different version of yourself. We think of that future-self as so vague, it can often feel like a different person — a person who has more money (somehow), who makes better decisions (somehow), who is able to achieve her goals by being precise and diligent about them (even if we aren’t doing that today). And in treating that future self like someone totally different from today, it takes the responsibility off of us to do the actual, hardcore planning necessary to get there. Future-us will figure it out, we think, and so we put off the actual doing. Had we been dreaming of buying a home? Absolutely. Did we want to this to come sooner than later? Certainly. Had we put pen to paper and set a goal as to how we would make this happen? Not so much.

Since then, we sat down and created a both joint- and independent-budget and savings plans spreadsheets. Most importantly, we decided upon a set amount that we would like to have collectively saved by a date early next spring. As soon as we had finished, I immediately felt differently about my accounts, and how much I was (or wasn’t) feeding into them. I know that we’re now on the right track, and I have confidence in our methods because I can see the path laid out before me.

Do what make sense for you, and what speaks to your personal language of motivation. Despite my fine arts undergrad, I am a tried and true spreadsheet-lovin’ gal, and find myself responding best when things are in front of me in neatly-collated rows. I have a coworker with a stunning collage splashed across the walls of her office, displaying her goals and inspirations in beautiful, intelligent way. Whatever way you can manifest what you’re working towards can serve as a giant motivator in meeting your #goals. Find what works for you, and be just as diligent about visualizing your #moneygoals as you are about #brunchgoals.

Sara is a Midwestern gal who balances prudent life planning with day-long Housewives binges. You can typically find her volunteering for a nonprofit, embarrassing herself on a dance floor, or somewhere in between.

Image via Pexels

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