Finally! We have discovered our “why” and embraced our dream and motivation for working towards that goal. NOW!, it’s time to learn how to form a plan of action. If you have been following along with me, you’ve heard me mention our family goal of working/volunteering on the Mercy Ship (https://mercyships.ca/). We’ll use this as our example. We dreamed and found our “Why” in our journey to the Mercy ship (read Part 2: How to make the Goal your priority). Next came the planning stage where we set some goals to get us to where we want to be!
A good tool to help you with goal setting is to make sure they are SMART goals. Are they, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely (https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/smart-goals.htm).
We wanted to take the necessary steps to prepare us for the Mercy ship. A lot of what we are facing is financial. We needed to count the cost to see where we needed to go! We needed to shed any debt that still hung over our heads. This gave us the direction we needed to make our goal specific, measurable and achievable. We needed to pay off our mortgage. We wanted to leave for the ship in 2021-2022. We had a timeline for our SMART goal, but was it realistic? It was a big job, but we believed that if we were motivated properly, that it was definitely doable.
The ‘why’ helped motivate us to put our heads down and pay off the mortgage more quickly. We could have kicked back and lived the high life...new vehicles, nice furniture, home upgrades...but that wouldn’t have satisfied our ‘why’. So we got to work and paid off our mortgage.
Our next goal may prove to be just as daunting. We sat down with our financial advisor to decide how much money we are going to need to accomplish this gigantic task. It is going to cost approximately $85000-95000 to volunteer onboard the Mercyship for 2 years while not being able to draw a salary. Currently, we have one year to save the amount of money that we need for the first year that we are gone, approximately $50,000. The plan is to save at least $3000 per month, sell items and rent out our home while we are away to contribute to the total cost. We have a timeline, with a lot of hard work, our new goal is specific, measurable, achievable (we think) and relevant. We think we have applied the SMART goal strategy well, I guess we’ll see how smart we really are!
When you are planning for your goal, counting the cost of any venture, or even just to live within your means is essential if you want to achieve it. The first step to understanding where you need to go is to first know where you are. Tracking where your finances are currently at, is a necessity to know where to go from “here”. How will you know where to start making changes if you don’t even know where all of your money is going? If you don’t have an understanding of your expenses and where your money is actually going, often, you underestimate how much you actually spent on most items. Did I really just spend $100 at McDonalds this month? I didn’t think that I spent that much on new clothes! One way to keep track of your spending is the old school pen and paper method. While this method never really worked for me, it is an option. Spreadsheets are another way to keep track for those of you who are very detail oriented. What we found to work really well was a shared budgeting and tracking app. There are so many to choose from (https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/budgeting-saving-tools/). These apps usually sync with your bank account and credit card to give you accurate information on each transaction, and are flexible enough to be able to give you a very good idea of where your money goes each month. I have personally been using the Mint app for at least five years (www.mint.com). Once you start tracking your spending, you can plan where you want your money to go in relation to your ‘why’!
“Every dollar you spend is a reflection of your values.”
You have the privilege of prioritizing and deciding what you place value on. The intentional planning phase is about telling your money where to go and how to get there. This step is really intertwined with your ‘why’, so keep that in mind as you place priorities on where you want your money to be spent! This is about making a budget that uses your money in a way that helps point your life in the direction that you choose for it to go. One of our priorities is donating to charity each month. Our faith brings us to want to use our resources for the betterment of our world and those around us. We believe that this is non-negotiable, as everything that we earn and possess belongs to God and we are just the stewards in charge of the assets that he has entrusted us with. Your ‘why’ and preferences are going to be different from ours, but going through the process of deciding what your priorities are helps to focus where your time, energy and money should go!
Tracking and planning for your finances also involves outlining your schedule. I love planning my schedule! Knowing what is coming up in terms of payments, bills, events and day to day tasks is so helpful because the way that you do life is heavily intertwined with how you spend your money. There are so many great apps that can help you plan. We have an app called COZI that we use to plan our entire family schedule for the year. As a nurse, I have to plan out 75% of my vacation and submit my vacation requests for the entire year by March. I used to own a tiny little nursing planner from UNA where I wrote down all my nursing shifts but the problem was that my husband never knew what my schedule was and because I worked at three different worksites between homecare, public health and the hospital, my husband couldn’t keep track of which site I was working at. As a family we were not on the same page. Communication about when bills were due, when certain payments were due and when the kids were going to soccer was difficult and we had many misunderstandings over the years. Thankfully with the Cozi app we could look months into the future and be reminded of plans that were scheduled and how our month was going to go. With a calendar/organizer app like Cozi, you can have shared grocery lists for when one of you drops into the store and you can schedule events that are typically forgotten because they only happen once a year (note to self: remember to renew your nursing license). If you’ve forgotten about it, chances are these kinds of apps can help you to limit the amount of surprises you experience during the year!
Another aspect of the planning phase is to intentionally meet up with like minded people who will encourage you towards your goal. It is often said that you are the sum of the five people that you spend the most time with. https://medium.com/the-mission/youre-not-the-average-of-the-five-people-you-surround-yourself-with-f21b817f6e69. Intentionally sign up and read books and join forums with like minded people that help you stay motivated. Another advantage of these kinds of forums, is that they usually provide tips and tricks on how to reach your goal. Runners do this to learn how to train better, reduce muscle soreness or improve their speed and performance. I’ve found by following Dave Ramsey and watching his debt free scream segments and posts is that it kept me motivated. I can watch people who are trying to achieve the same things me, which helps me to stay motivated as well as see how they achieved their goals and applied their strategies. I especially enjoyed hearing the unique stories of people who overcame seemingly impossible financial situations and became debt free! So find some people who have similar goals, whether that’s in person or online!
Small steps daily add up over time and make a difference. That’s why Dave Ramsey has the 7 babysteps program and not the giant leaps program. Daily decisions can have a large effect over time. For example, only spending $27.39 in one day doesn’t sound like a large sum of money but if you spent that sum everyday it would add up to $10,000 over the course of a year. This can add up to paying for a vacation or trip, or it can be a large sum of investments for the year or lost income spent on meaningless items, depending on which direction you decide to take that babystep. Keep the small stuff in mind when you are planning for a goal, as they can also derail a good plan just as much as the larger more obvious expenses. (https://familymoneyplan.com/save-10000-year/)
When you decide to start this journey towards your goal, please remember that it is a marathon and not a sprint. It will be a daily journey that will likely take anywhere from six months to three years depending on your individual situation and goal.
If you feel like you can do this on your own, awesome, I’ll cheer you on!
But if you still feel lost about how to organize and plan or If you struggle with tracking your finances, developing a plan or need accountability with your plan, then I can help you! All it takes is the courage to call and I can help you develop a plan that will help you believe that you can achieve your goal. You have it in you...let me help you find it.
Now Go and Be Intentional!