4 Common Budgeting Mistakes
- No specific motivation
- Unrealistic spending estimates
- Overlooked expenses
- Too many restrictions
Have you ever needed to save for something quickly?
For example, say your car is long overdue for replacement, and you’ve reached your breaking point. Under ordinary circumstances it could take a year to save for a sizeable down payment, but you decide you’re willing to implement budget changes and lifestyle sacrifices to make it happen faster. That’s a stretch goal—an ambitious savings target that requires sacrifice and discipline to achieve.
Reaching a stretch goal is no easy task, but here are four strategies that can help make yours a reality.
You may be motivated when you establish your stretch goal, but willpower can fade easily. One way to stay on track is to build a dream board, or a visual reminder of what it is you’re saving for. Dream boards can be as simple as cork boards filled with photos and clippings that illustrate your goal. (For example, the board could be a photo collage of the car you’re planning to buy.) Put your board somewhere highly visible—at your desk or near your bed—and update it frequently so as not to grow immune to its effect. Regularly visualizing your goal can have a profound impact on your chances of success.
Even with reminders of your end goal in plain sight, you may be tempted to spend money if it’s sitting in your everyday checking or savings account. Think about opening up a new savings account specifically for your stretch goal deposits. There are two major benefits of doing so: First, a separate, “off-limits” account can serve as a barrier between you and your money; second, it’s easier to track goal-specific savings if they are accumulating in a standalone account.
Try to cut out all expenses but the bare necessities for an entire month. You may have to make all your meals and coffee at home and find free entertainment options, but doing so can boost your savings considerably in just a few weeks. One woman who committed to a no-spend month did so by focusing on her end goal, being mindful of spending and allowing herself a few small exceptions to make the month more manageable. In the end, she saved money and walked away with a new appreciation for spending on needs versus wants.
There’s no reason to wait for spring cleaning to declutter your home. Look through your closet, pantry and storage areas and set aside things that rarely get used or that you no longer want. List all the items for sale online, or host a garage sale. If you own designer clothes or accessories, you may also be able to sell them at local or online consignment shops. Use the earnings to help fund your stretch goal.
Whether you’re saving for yourself or want to spend the money on someone else, try the above strategies when you have a specific financial goal in mind. Staying focused and making short-term sacrifices are the best ways to make your stretch goal a reality.
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1 “Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015,” Revised March 2017, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, United States Department of Agriculture.
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