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31 Dec 2008

Making 2009 Shine. Bite-Sized Goals Taste Better and Go Down Easier.

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by Jesse Mecham

I absolutely love the new year. I get jazzed about goal-setting (budgeting is, after all, simply goal setting/achieving on an ongoing basis).

Here are some high-level things I want to focus on this year, with my accompanying game plan. In the past (revisit your goals often), I’ve written about goals in general. This year, however, I’m simply going to do it all right here, for everyone to see. It’ll give me a bit more accountability. Take from it what you will.

Where’s My Focus?

Family – the kids and my wife. I think those need to be broken up for sure. Make sure I focus on Julie with some things as well (put flower-sending on autopilot perhaps?). So we have kids and Julie. I think I can be fine lumping the three kids together.

Church – definitely some areas for improvement there. I’m going to go broader and call it spiritual. I want to make sure I’m increasing my knowledge of spiritual things — not just secular things.

Physical – Happy to report that I didn’t gain any weight this year, but I have some areas where I want to specifically focus. I’ll get to that later.

Hobbies – Would like to do some things specific to my new found love: Jiu Jitsu.

Financial – Just brainstorming here, but some big things on my mind lately are our year supply of food (or lack thereof), 72-hour emergency kits (again, or lack thereof), and six-month emergency fund (working toward it, but it’s too slow). Also, I’d like to not be paying so much interest on the mortgage (that was a 2008 goal, to get a house).

Making My Goals SMART

SMART goals are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. All good things. Though timely should really maybe labeled as ‘timeframe’. The point is to have a deadline.

Refining…

Kids – do a “Dad date” with each of the kids once a month. Focus here on whatever they want to do. My youngest’s could obviously be fairly simple. The time needs to be long enough to have an impact (an hour or two).

Julie – just ask her often, “What can I do right now to help out?” That should go a long ways (idea from a guy at church, not my own). Often perhaps isn’t specific enough, and how do I measure this? Have some secret paper in my wallet that I check off? Perhaps.

Spiritual – read from 5:00-5:30 am every weekday. Keep a journal of what I’m reading. Ah, and check off the goal above in my journal.

Physical – No soda this year. H2O, here I come! Also, I want to get my BFP to 9%. In years past I’ve also prescripted some workout for the year and about 90 days into the new year I’m already tired of the workout and want to do something else. So I’m shooting for a results-oriented goal here of a change in body fat, rather than a task-oriented goal. Let the task change as necessary/desired, I know the result I want to get.

Jiu Jitsu – Roll twice each week. Keep a journal. Enroll in classes by March of 2009 (at the moment, my friend is teaching me).

Year-Supply – this one’s become important to me as of late. Perhaps it was a stupiphany I had recently. My job is to provide for the family’s needs, and Julie’s job is to all the hard stuff. I encourage everyone to have an emergency fund of 3-6 months’ expenses, and that’s great and necessary, but what use will that money be for the family if disaster strikes?

Hey kids! An earthquake just struck, the water supply will be out for four days, we don’t have any water, but look — we have six months’ of money saved! Let’s drink that!

Have a year supply of food and two-week supply of water before the end of January 2009. We’ve been working on our year supply of food and I’m fairly confident we can finish it off this month if we don’t put anything into our emergency fund for January.

Oh, there’s an entire post on this to come, but if you’re wondering how I calculated it all, feel free to use this year supply spreadsheet (Google Doc). Just save your own copy of it before you dive in and start making changes (that everyone else can see).

72-Hour Kits – Have them done for five people by the end of February.

Emergency Fund – this thing’s creeping along. We’re consistently putting money into it, but not enough. All I know is that by the end of the year I want to have an entire, cushy, six months of income saved. Call me crazy, but I want even more cushion. I haven’t yet figured out how this can be accelerated.

Mortgage Interest – pay $100 more per month on the mortgage (this will be done through the autopay feature). Find the $100 through grocery savings, which will come through the grocery game.

Bite-Sized Goals

The key is to make these goals bite-sized. Some of them are already in their simplest forms, others will need some work. My plan is to make a monthly action plan at the beginning of each month to ensure that I’m tracking well. The year-supply spreadsheet is a good example. I’ve entered what we already have, and now I know exactly what we still need. I can create a timeline for when we’ll be purchasing what, and have that finished by the end of January.

Just dial it down to the level of granularity necessary:

Finances > Emergency Fund > Required Amount > Monthly Amount > Steps necessary to free up that amount each month. Done.

Your Next Step

Remember, budgeting is not restrictive. You won’t be spending less, you’ll be spending right. You can do this! Today. Right now. What do you have to lose? Except all that debt and stress. (Ok, so kind of a lot.)

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