How To Set Financial Goals You'll Actually Stick To

As the dust begins to settle on 2022, many people are hard at work on their 2023 resolutions. According to the latest Statista Global Consumer Survey, behind weight, health, and fitness goals, financial goals are the most common resolutions for Americans going into 2023. After a year of record inflation, it makes sense for money to be on the collective mind. However, money goals are basically always in the top 10 most common resolutions (via Go Skills). This could be due to the fact that, according to the U.S. News & World Report, roughly 80% of New Year's resolutions are abandoned by mid-February, leaving plenty of time to try again next year.


If you've set some new financial goals for yourself, there's still hope. The trick to changing your external habits is to first change your internal mindset. Here's where to place your focus to make sure your money goals are attainable and in alignment with what you really want and need in your life. 

Ask yourself why

The intention behind a goal is as important as the goal itself, according to Shine. If you've set a specific monetary goal such as saving $5,000 in savings by the end of the year, make sure you know why. Where does the specific number come from, and what does it mean to you? Is it the amount you need to cover one month of expenses in case of an emergency, which would allow you to feel safe? Or, does it just sound like an impressive amount of money to you?


You're much more likely to stick to an intention that has real meaning to you (via Be Meditation). If you've set an arbitrary money goal, go back and reexamine it. How can you alter it to give it context within your actual life? Consider aiming to save enough to pay off one credit card or the amount of two full paychecks, and imagine how reaching that goal would make you feel. These numbers will hold much more significance to you than one that was picked randomly. 

Define your core values

Your lifestyle is an extension of your inner core values. These are the pillars of what you consider worthwhile and important enough to make up the non-negotiables of your life, as detailed by Indeed. If you aren't considering these values when setting your financial goals, it's unlikely that you'll follow through with them. For example, suppose you consider yourself a kitchen witch and place a high level of value on cooking and baking for your loved ones. If you set a goal to spend less money and plan to get there by slashing your grocery budget in half, you're going to face some major challenges (via Iulian Ionescu).


If spending time with loved ones at mealtime is one of your core values, look elsewhere for places to cut your budget. If you truly can't find room in any other areas, be extra intentional when dissecting your grocery budget. Perhaps you can cut down on wine or find more inexpensive alternatives for some of your pricier go-to ingredients. If a goal requires you to scrap a part of your life that you truly value, it won't be sustainable for you. 

Break down your goals

If you've never managed to save more than $500 before, saving $5,000 may not be something you can realistically imagine. This doesn't mean you shouldn't aspire to loftier goals; it just means you should consider breaking them down into more digestible chunks (via The Disciplined Rebel). Rather than looking at the overwhelming task of saving $5,000 by the end of the year, figure out how much you'd need to save each month, week, or pay period to hit that goal.


Over the course of 12 months, you would need to save about $417 per month to hit $5,000. If you're paid biweekly, that breaks down to about $209 per pay period. For those who are paid each week, it looks like approximately $105 out of each paycheck. A goal of setting aside $105 each week feels a lot more attainable than saving $5,000 this year, even though the two are actually one and the same. You can even set related small goals to help you get motivated, like setting aside your loose change and then depositing it into your savings account at the end of the month (via Forbes). 

Change your routine

What you do on a daily basis is what defines your life. If you want to reach a specific financial goal this year, you need to assess which changes need to be made to your everyday routine, as explained by Zen Habits. If your goal is to cut your spending by $100 each month to start building a savings account, don't stop at just naming that goal. Examine your daily habits to find out where you can cut that $100 from your life without negatively impacting your motivation and wellbeing.


If you truly enjoy the ritual of making your own lattes at home but you've somehow picked up the habit of buying coffee on your way to work, resolve to get back to the routine you enjoy while also saving money (via Psych Central). If you typically pay $6 for your latte each workday while your espresso supplies sit unused as home, you'll save more than your $100 goal each month with no other changes to your routine. 

Celebrate progress

If you set a goal of putting $150 in a new retirement account each month and three months into the year you've only managed to deposit a total of $250, that's still a win. Perhaps you fell short of your goal, but you still have $250 set aside that wasn't there before. You may wish to re-evaluate your goal and decide if it's truly attainable or needs adjustment (via Lifehack). Either way, you made undeniable progress.


Rather than punishing yourself when you don't hit the exact goal you set, always celebrate progress of any kind. Beating yourself up forms a negative association with goal setting in your brain. Celebrating your small wins does the opposite, as reported by Forbes. Make a point of celebrating each change in the right direction and every bit of measurable progress. Just make sure not to overspend on celebrations. Keep it small but meaningful, like a dance party to your favorite song or an extra episode of your current Netflix obsession.