Life goals can sometimes seem like unattainable pipe dreams, but follow our five top tips and you'll find your goals are closer than you think.
1. Dream big, but dream SMART
Dreaming big is a good thing - it's important to be ambitious - but more important is being clear, realistic and SMART. Your goals need to be:
Specific: know exactly what you want
Measurable: you need to know if you're progressing towards your goal, otherwise you'll always be chasing
Achievable: make it realistic. That doesn't mean 'aim low', but it does mean don't break the laws of physics (or any other laws, for that matter)
Rewarding: goals should be for you. Don't aim for something just because you think you should
Timed: include a rough idea of when you want to reach your goal, so you don't keep putting it off. For example, to own a house by the time you're 40, or retire at 60
2. Budget accurately
We're often told to 'budget wisely', but wisdom is vague and subjective. As you probably guessed from the T in SMART, we think accuracy is far more valuable.
While it might seem a chore to painstakingly record the ins and outs of your finances, there's an easier way. Our free Money Dashboard money management software lets you combine all of your online account details in one easy-to-read display, offering a range of attractive graphs, tables and tagging options to give you a clear view of your financial situation.
3. Consider every opportunity
Another adage that deserves closer scrutiny is 'carpe diem' (seize the day). There's a balance between sticking to a well-worked plan and taking advantage of the chances life throws your way. Take the time to assess whether a new development can benefit you, don't just grab or dismiss it instantly. And when you seize an opportunity, make the most of it.
A good personal finance example is the lure of credit card cashback schemes. Getting money back on your purchases is a great way of earning from weekly shops and monthly direct debits. But accumulate more debt than you can cover, or give in to impulse purchases, and you'll find the interest costs outweigh the cashback. The lesson being: consider opportunities carefully.
4. Enjoy the small things
The best things in life are free. Make an effort to find free events and activities in your area, plan simple, tasty meals, and take pleasure in each small victory on the road to achieving your goals: whether it's hitting a monthly savings target, losing your first kilo of weight, or finding a course that could advance your career prospects.
If you learn to enjoy the small things, you'll soon find you have the time, money and energy you need to achieve big things.
5. Learn from your mistakes
Even with clear planning, a cautious approach and a positive attitude, things will go wrong. The important thing is to stay strong, learning from your mistakes, and keeping focussed on your goal.
If you have any other tips you'd like to share, let us know in the comments below!