A Guaranteed Plan of Action for Achieving Your Financial Goals

achieve goals every time

Contrary to the name of this article, I actually hate the word “goals”. But it’s the best way I can describe anything I’m working towards, so until there’s a better word I’m just going with it.

My speciality is talking about financial goals in particular (that’s why the blog is called Careful Cents!), but these tips will also apply to any goal you’re working towards. And I promise that if you take each of these steps and apply them to your goals, you’re guaranteed to accomplish them.

These are tips I’ve used to become debt-free, save enough money to quit my full-time job, and be the breadwinner. So I can honestly say that these tips work, but only if you’re willing to put in the time and effort.

1. Write (paint or sketch) out your goal

Back when I was in the process of quitting my job, I created a vision board that reflected my current goals and aspirations. This idea may seem totally overused but it works!

Not only is the process fun, and allows this budding painter to indulge in her creative side, but it’s also a visual representation of what I want my life to feel like when I reach my goal.

It takes the fact that you want to pay off $5,000 of debt (for example) from an intangible goal, to a place of accomplishment, freedom and having more control. I wanted to be my own boss so I could travel more, move out of Texas (where I’ve lived my whole life) and have more freedom over the structure of each day.

My goal this year is to pay down some debt I’ve incurred while trying to get my business off the ground, and save up $5,000 in a moving fund. This is separate from my emergency fund, which covers smaller day-to-day emergencies.

Our short-term goal for our fund’s money is so that the hubs and I can move to a new city this summer. It’s much more difficult to prove your income to a landlord when you’re self-employed, so we have to save up at least 3-4 times one month’s rent in a separate savings account.

Side note: We don’t plan on using this money for anything since it will simply be used to prove we have money to pay for rent since I don’t have a regular W-2 from an employer (and the hubs is a self-employed private chef). This is a whole different topic that I will likely discuss over the next few months as we gear up towards our cross-country move.

2. Name it something catchy

Now that you’ve determined what your goal is going to be, it’s time to name it something catchy. My previous goal was named, “From Unstuck To Unstoppable” and encompassed everything we wanted to accomplish in 2014.

My next goal is aptly named Operation GTFO TX which stands for Get the eff Out of Texas! This is mostly because we’ve been trying to stabilize my income and save up money to move for the past 2 years. It’s tough to jump off the freelance financial roller coaster, but the results are starting to show.

Have some fun with the name, too. I spiced up our goal’s name with some hand-lettering as a way to get excited about pursuing it. Sometimes financial or health goals can be really boring, so do anything you can to find a way to make it fun and exciting.

operation GTFO
Some fun hand lettering to spice up our new goal!

3. Change your passwords for daily reminders

By naming your goal something catchy, it gives you the opportunity to use this phrase as the passwords for all of your accounts. If you’re like me, you probably log into Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, and your bank accounts, on a daily basis. This is the perfect time to change your passwords to this new phrase.

During my Unstuck to Unstoppable goal many of my passwords were GetUnstuck2014 or YoureUnstoppable14. Obviously I’ve changed my passwords since then, but you get the idea. Use a mix of your goal’s catchy name, and numbers that correspond to the year, so you have a daily reminder of what you’re working towards.

Additionally, it’s like doing daily affirmations. You start saying something over, and over, and over until you believe it and it becomes a reality. This year’s passwords will be a mix of our operationGTFO name and various numbers. In fact, I’ve already updated several of my passwords to reflect this new goal.

Finally, it’s a great way to update your account passwords on a regular basis. Most of us are guilty of either using the exact same passwords for everything or never changing them. So take time to change your regular passwords to your new goal.

4. Find the right mentor or advisor

We’ve done the fun stuff and now it’s time to get down to bid-niz! How will you actually achieve it (especially when it’s so easy to get off track)? The next step in this process is to find a financial advisor or mentor who can help you create a successful, custom plan for you situation.

Even though I have a background in accounting, and have even gotten myself out of debt once, I still needed help from a financial advisor. Why? Because this time my husband and I are both working towards these goals together, and this is the first time in my life I’ve been self-employed.

In other words, there are a lot more changes and variables that I need help with, and that’s why having a financial advisor on your team is so beneficial.

One of the best places I recommend you start looking for a financial planner is the XY Planning Network. Their financial advisors are all young go-getters, so they understand our generation, our goals, and can talk to us in real terms. We’ve been working with Sophia Bera, who helped us craft a custom debt payoff plan in January.

These CFPs and financial advisors all run their own firms (meaning they’re self-employed too) and know what it’s like to be the boss, while managing the financial side of things. They can help you come up with a custom plan for your goals and needs — plus, their prices are budget-friendly.

5. Decide how to take action

Obviously the most important part of moving from having a goal to making it a reality, is to take action. While that’s a lot easier said than done, it’s not impossible.

Start by breaking down your goal into smaller parts. For instance; the hubs and I need to save up at least $5,000 by July/August so we can have plenty of time to move before our lease runs out in October. Which means we have approximately 5 months to save like crazy (starting in March and ending in July). If you’re doing the math $5,000 divided by 5 months = $1,000 towards savings each month.

That sounds like a TON of extra money we have to come up with every month!

But when you break it down to how you’re going to come up with the extra funds, it doesn’t sound so overwhelming. We both sat down together and brainstormed some ideas of how we can reach our $1,000 monthly savings goal (without stopping our regular retirement and savings transfers).

After spending the past 6ish months cutting our spending back (in order to tackle my business debt) we know that we can’t cut back our spending any more. If you’re not sure what your monthly spending habits are, I highly suggest you take the Careful Cents 60-Day Cash Spending Challenge. It’s a free challenge that allows you to understand your spending habits, your priorities, and what your budget needs are in order for you to get back on top.

If you’re like me, and you already have a good understanding of your finances, then you either need to cut back in certain areas or start earning more money. Ryan and I chose to implement the latter.

Here’s how we’re doing it:

  • Have a huge apartment purge. We started with a #pantrypurge last month, and will continue doing an entire purge of our apartment. We’ll sell what we can to make some extra cash, while getting rid of stuff we don’t want to pay to move. This is a win-win since we’re making money and saving money.
  • Amp up my #blogtobizplan. I’m in the process of amping up my blogging income by selling my own products and working directly with brands who offer services I believe in. I’ve already seen amazing progress on this and have a plan to dedicate a certain portion of all product sales to our moving fund account. (I’ll be publishing more specific details of my blog’s income soon.)
  • Take on part-time work. As I mentioned the hubs is self-employed too, so both of us have agreed to take on one more client and stash away that income directly towards our goal. If you’re a freelancer, this can be your course of action as well. Or if you’re an employee, you can take on a side hustle or part-time job at nights or on weekends.

I know this sounds like a lot of extra work (and it is!) but our timeline is only 5 months, and those months will go by anyway, so we want to make them count. By creating a specific timeframe for your goal, you can commit 110% to it, knowing that there’s an end in sight.

If you don’t have a specific timeline, you’ll likely get discouraged and be unable to commit to the entire process. Even long-term goals need short-term milestones so you can stay on track, celebrate your wins, and avoid saving fatigue.

6. Open a new savings account

I always get a high from opening a new bank account. I know, I’m weird! Maybe this doesn’t appeal to your inner financial geek at all, but either way, you’ll want to open a separate account for this new goal.

You don’t want to mix your personal savings, or other accounts with this money. It’s going to be used for a specific purpose and should have a dedicated account. I personally use and recommend a Capital One 360 account since you can open a new account online and it’s completely free.

We already use Capital One 360 for our personal checking account, and other financial goals, so it just makes sense to add a new account to the list. All the extra money you make from your action plan (created in the above step) should be deposited directly into this new account.

capital one 360 accoutns
All of my savings accounts with Capital One 360.

If it works better, you can simply open up a new account at a completely different bank, so you won’t be tempted to touch the money. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time over thinking this step. You don’t want your next step to become a hindrance and encourage your procrastination towards your goal’s progress.

Make it easy. Open a new account, make sure it’s free, and start saving money today.

7. Stay accountable to a partner

As I mentioned, the hubs and I are in this together so we’re keeping each other accountable. Outside of that though, I also have accountability partners who know about this goal and are keeping me on track.

This is someone you’ll want to work with in addition to your financial advisor or mentor. Sometimes they may be paid, in the case of my business coach, or it may not involve money, as in the case of my accountabilibuddy.

Set up regular dates where you either chat in person, or over the phone, to discuss the progress of your goals, what challenges you’re facing, and your commitment of action before your next meeting. Then each week, or each month, check-in on what’s been happening and give each other support and guidance as needed.

It helps if your accountability partner is someone who’s in the same situation as you are, and can relate to what you’re going through.

For example; if you’re in debt then find someone who’s working to get out of debt too. If you have a new freelance business, find a partner who just started a few freelance business and ask if they want to be your accountabilibuddy.

8. Only set goals you WANT to accomplish

This brings me to my last point. Only set goals you actually have the time and dedication to accomplish. It’s great to want to be healthy, or want to save more money, but what good is that if you don’t take the necessary steps towards reaching it?

Each of these steps are non-negotiable and must be completed in order to guarantee the accomplishment of your goal. If you aren’t willing to do the work, then don’t bother creating a goal in the first place.

For each goal that I create it includes a simple process.

  • Write out the goal in detail (or in pictures)
  • Name it something catchy
  • Update passwords to reflect this new goal
  • Work with a professional who can help (this applies to all categories, whether it’s financial, health, or relationship related)
  • Decide on a plan of action and commit
  • Create a dedicated account (or space — in the case of artistic or health goals)
  • Stay accountable

If you aren’t willing to apply ALL of these steps towards your latest goal, then it probably won’t be accomplished. It’s as simple as that.

Anything you want to happen that doesn’t have these steps attached to it is simply a wish. And wishes don’t get things done — putting in the work does.

What kind of steps do you put into action for reaching your goals? What’s your process look like?

Thanks to Check ‘n Go for some of the research and ideas provided in this post.
The 7 Best Mobile Tax Apps for Freelancers to Organize and File Their Taxes
6 Lessons I Learned in My First 6 Months of Being Self-Employed

26 comments

    • Carrie says:

      Absolutely! I apply similar steps to all my goals and the debt is definitely on the list. Glad you enjoyed the piece. Thanks for reading + commenting, friend. 🙂

  1. Love this! I’m really big on goals. I always have yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals… sometimes I go overboard 😀

    I love the idea of creating a vision board for goals, and how they can capture emotions as well as the analytical logic of objectives, etc. Feels much more “wholesome” for lack of a better word right now…

    About the issue regarding applying for apartments without paystubs/W2… I’d LOVE it if you could address this soon!!! I’m planning on moving in May or June, and I was wondering about this. I’m big on privacy so I don’t necessarily want to hand out bank statements or anything. I was hoping just a reference from my current landlord of 5+ years would be enough, but… I don’t know.

    • Carrie says:

      For sure, Kerilynn! A post about my experience getting approved for an apartment while being self-employed is definitely on the books to publish. It’s something I’ve never experienced before and think it will be really helpful to share my research and what I learn throughout the process.

  2. Farideh says:

    loved these tips! I really appreciate how you incorporate fun and creativity into your financial plans because money is straight up fun!

    I’m saving for a baby and so much of what you’ve talked about is exactly what I’m doing. I love the catchy name though – hadn’t thought of that one.

    One thing I’m loving is having a monthly income goal. I had my best month ever last month and I was so excited …but also I needed to be freshly inspired. Turning over a new month meant going back to zero and starting over – whether I surpassed my goal or not – this is a new month with a new goal!

    • Carrie says:

      Monthly goals are very motivating, you’re right! I’m excited to hear about your new addition to the family, that will be fun. 🙂 Good luck on your goal this month, I hope it’s even more awesome than last month’s goal!

  3. Steph says:

    This is awesome, Carrie – thanks so much for sharing!

    I’m all fired up to create a plan to start making dents in my debt this year, thanks to this article. I absolutely LOVE the idea of changing passwords so that they become affirmations – this is so simple but clever. I’m a creature of habit and repetition so I can definitely see this working for me.

    Going to check out your 60-Day Cash Spending Challenge now!

    • Carrie says:

      I’m so glad you liked my idea about changing the passwords. That’s been a big game-changer for me since I’m always confessing my goals. I hope the Cash Spending Challenge works too!

  4. Brian says:

    I totally agree with writing down goals, it really helps to see it in black and white (or pictures)! But i can’t see why anyone would want to GTFO of Texas, it took us way to long to be able to GTFO of CA and GTFI Texas! To each their own!

    • Carrie says:

      If I had my way, I’d probably live in Texas my whole life. But my husband is more of an adventurer and it pushes me outside my comfort zone, while allowing me to experience amazing things. So I’m looking at it as an adventure. And who knows, maybe we will move back someday!

  5. Melanie Jennings says:

    I need some help. I have to start somewhere. Can you recommend some steps to get started on my road to conquer my debt. Thanks so much. Melanie

  6. Diane says:

    Thanks Carrie, there are some great take-aways here, especially the snappy name and making it your password. Brilliant! I can see what I’ll be allocating some time to today…

  7. Great post… We just GTF Into TX from the West Coast last year. Because we hadn’t started our jobs yet, we had to show three YEARS worth of rent in the bank! But because we’ve got a fully-funded emergency fund and are saving for a down payment on a house, we actually have it. Whoa. That’s a far cry from being broke and in debt four years ago. Careful budgeting, putting in the work to both reduce spending and increase income, and liberal use of the word “No” have helped us get here, but we’re not done yet: we’re hoping to buy our first house this year!

    Love the vision boards and goal-related passwords, we do that too, and it really helps keep the goals front and center.

    Keep up the good work, and best of luck on your move!

    • Carrie says:

      Oh gosh, I seriously hope we don’t have to show more than 2-3x the monthly rent (that’s what the average my research showed was needed). Glad you guys had enough in your savings to close the deal. I love your point about the “liberal use of the word NO” I think that will be key during this process. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Yolanda Joy says:

    Love the plan, Carrie. I’ve never even thought about changing passwords to help remind myself of goals – a great way to keep it at the front of your mind, as well as improving the security of passwords. I’d be worried I’d forget when I change the passwords though!

    I think it’s really important to be clear about where we are headed as solopreneurs though, so defining and working towards our goals is a step that we can’t miss!

    • Carrie says:

      The easy part about remembering your passwords after changing them is that you created a new goal name and wrote it down (via a vision board or sketchbook like I did here). So that should make it easy to remember what you changed it to. 🙂

  9. Hayley says:

    This is the best post I’ve read in a while about setting and achieving goals. I absolutely love the tip about using passwords as a reminder. I’m off to make some changes to my goal setting process now!

  10. Gina Horkey says:

    Great post Carrie! I also enjoy GTFO TX;-)

    Operation RV was the name of my big goal. I totally used the password idea last year too (freelance14) and in the past I’ve had (my current) car as my screensaver.

    My mantra? Why not me, why not now?

    Get it girl!

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