Ask Chuck: Setting Financial Goals for the New Year (And How to Reach Them)
My husband and I desperately need to get a handle on our money next year. What are some of the most important things we should do? We have struggled to keep our New Year’s Resolution beyond February.
New Goals in the New Year
Dear New Goals,
Struggling to set and keep goals is common! I commend you on having goals in the first place because many in our nation don’t even make it that far. God’s Word tells us that we can overcome the challenges of unmet goals.
One Thing, One Day At a Time
Years ago, I struggled to cut back on my sugar intake. I was as frustrated about that challenge to my health as you are with your financial challenges. So January 1, my resolution was to eliminate sugar from my diet. This meant no desserts, no candy bars and no sweeteners in my coffee. Each day, I had to learn to say no to what I wanted (sugar) so that I could get what I needed for tomorrow (better health).
To keep going, I renewed my resolution each morning and kept it up each day for the entire year (and for the next 14 years after that)! In fact, this small victory helped me learn to become disciplined in many other areas of my life.
Remember this, if you can be disciplined in just one area of your life, you can learn to be disciplined in all areas of your life, but it must start with one. For you, that means learning to set a financial goal and keep it one day at a time. If you do this daily for a long period of time, you can and will achieve far more than you ever dreamed could be accomplished.
Goal Setting Principles
- Be certain that the goals you set are compatible with Scripture. God promised to meet our needs and provide an abundance to give to others, but not if we intend to hoard it or squander it.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. (James 4:3)
- Husbands and wives can find unity in adopting a shared Biblical philosophy of money. Research on goal setting for couples shows that achievement is increased when done jointly.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
- Dedicate your efforts to the Lord and ask Him to guide your steps.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)
- Pray for self-control and mutual encouragement.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
The ultimate purpose of our financial goals should be that our lifestyles glorify God. Discuss with your spouse how you want your lives to glorify the Lord in 2019. Your goals will take on much greater meaning than simply struggling to keep your head above water. Knowing the “why” of our plans helps to keep us motivated.
Good intentions become a plan only when they are written down and acted upon. Put your spending plan on paper (or in a spreadsheet) to view the state of your finances more clearly, determine what you want to achieve in 2019, and know that faithful steps will become lifelong habits. Here is the step-by-step plan I recommend, in order of priority.
- Give: regularly and joyfully, even if it seems small at first. Start with your church.
- Save: money every pay period. If you don’t have an emergency fund in place, save $1,000 first. Here are some tips to achieve it. Then steadily accumulate several months’ living expenses. Determine your long-term savings goals.
- Reduce Debt: establish a plan and stick to it. Pay cash and avoid new debt by making wise spending choices. Apply any additional income to pay down existing debt. If you have overwhelming credit card debt, get in touch with Christian Credit Counselors.
- Retirement Goals: What percentage of your income will you save? Will you do the employer match in a company 401(k), open a Roth IRA, or open a money market account? You can still save without an employee-sponsored plan.
Here are some practical tips to achieving your 2019 goals:
- Determine needs and wants.
- Make a budget based on the goals you want to achieve.
- Reduce unnecessary expenses and sell discretionary items of value.
- Make key lifestyle adjustments.
- Think before buying to avoid impulse purchases.
- Be willing to make sacrifices for long-term rewards.
- Review your plan regularly. Make note of your progress and celebrate your victories.
Allow a month to learn and establish healthy financial habits. A 30 Day Reset can help you on your journey. Goals will morph over time, so following the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound) acronym is helpful when making yours.
“Wishful thinking” can become reality when Biblical financial goals are implemented. As Solomon said, The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance… (Proverbs 21:5a)
My prayer is that you have a guide to get started on the road to financial freedom in the New Year. As you make progress, remember that the true riches the Lord wants us to have are not stored in our bank account.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 ESV)
Originally published on the Christian Post, Decmeber 28, 2019