How to set financial goals, and smash them

By Larissa Fernand |  19-12-22 | 
 

I failed miserably when trying to set a budget last year.

I have my SIPs running. On a particular day of every month, money gets debited from my account and goes into my portfolio of funds. So my investing is on track.

But I spend way too much. A very cursory inventory on my outgoings made me realise that my highest discretionary spend in 2022 was on takeout and restaurant dining (NOT my grocery bill). It is embarrassingly high. No matter how hard I tried to curb it down, it was futile.

I would fix a budget that permits me to binge on outside food. I would violate it. I would feel guilty. And I would do it again and again.

Not only was I spending a pretty tidy amount on eating out, I also (falsely) bought into the notion that I cannot save more. This is dangerous, and I explain why in This mistake could leave you old and broke.

Since the budget is not working for me, I will try another route. Here’s is 3-pronged game plan for 2023 when it comes to curbing my spending and saving more.

Restrain.

I won't think in terms of money anymore. I will now look at it in terms of work hours.

My 3-step process:

  1. Calculate my hourly paycheck.
  2. Every Sunday, do an audit on my "eating out". In simple words, just add up how much I spent that week.
  3. Convert the amount of money spent into the equivalent hours of work for that week.

What do I hope to achieve? Looking at it from a different lens may help me spend less on takeaway and cook more frequently.

Additional reading: The reason you fail to live within a budget.

Motivate.

Upping my savings goal is fine in theory, but it has a negative vibe to it because it reminds me of my financial inadequacy and the sacrifice needed to attain that amount. But without one, the days will go by, money is spent, and you won't necessarily get to where you really wanted to go.

So I decided to turn the narrative to what it is I passionately want to materialise. It takes away the mental and emotional roadblocks because now the apparent sacrifice is not punitive, but a means to achieving what I dearly long for.

I put down my goal as saving for a holiday. The more I save, the more I have for my holiday. But that was vague, after all I do take short breaks and a holiday now and then. To make your goal attainable, make it vivid. It’s okay to start with ambiguous, but ensure you get specific. Forcing detail into the picture provokes one to action. Would you rather have an apple cake or a "moist apple cake spiced with cinnamon"? Richly visualizing it helps you get more intentional.

There are two travel plans that get me excited. Seeing the Northern Lights and going on a safari to Africa (I put this down last year but medical issues prevented me from travelling). Now that I have decided, I can focus on the logistics and the amount needed.

Additional reading: 3 questions to answer to kickstart your savings

Prioritize.

Once you stop compartmentalizing and realise that every part of your life affects every other part, you will be able to figure out what is of consequence to you.

A runner will not compromise on a good pair of sneakers, but may be more than happy to curb on designer clothes and bags. Another may prefer on spending money on gadgets and be totally happy with a minimalist wardrobe. In this instance, I would rather curb my expenditure knowing that the tradeoff is a trip of a lifetime

Change your mindset. Stop thinking that you have to spend less. Stop thinking that you have to cut corners. Instead, prioritize your spending so that you can have more of the things that make you happy and bring you pleasure. Spend on what matters. Get as much value as possible out of your money.

Additional Reading: A step-by-step guide to achieve your goals

Larissa Fernand is an Investment Specialist and Senior Editor for Morningstar India. You can follow her on Twitter
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