We all have our long-term dreams. The big things that we hope to accomplish during our lifetimes. We think about them, talk about them with close family and friends, and look forward to them becoming a reality sometime in the hopefully not-so-far-off distance.
Whether it is raising a family with the person you love most in the world, quitting your job and traveling wherever the wind blows you, or moving internationally for a high-powered job opportunity, these major goals require a fair bit of planning. More specifically, they can require a considerable amount of financial planning to be completely successful.
Getting your ducks in a row and laying the financial groundwork for your life-changing goals to become a reality is a process that you can start now. Doing so will help you be ready to jump right in when your chance crops up. It will prepare you to make the most of an experience that could alter the direction of the rest of your life.
Setting a Budget
Perhaps the most valuable means of reaching your goals is taking the steps to get your finances in order early on. Start by laying out your priorities — what are your goals and what steps do you physically have to take to make them a reality? This could involve having a real heart to heart with yourself and acknowledging starkly where you stand concerning making your goals happen.
One of the best ways to accomplish this is by setting and working to stick to a budget. Track your spending and use tools such as a budget calculator to gain a better understanding of where your money is going every month and how you can make changes to set yourself up for success in the longer term. Doing this can help you spot where your financial weaknesses are that could hinder you.
You may not exactly be starting at zero with your financial records. Rather, maybe you’ve made some poor decisions that you’re trying to recover from to get your finances back on track. Once again, building a budget you can stick to can be key to succeeding in this, but you should also prioritize paying off lingering debts that are accruing a lot of interest and putting a strain on the rest of your finances.
A Cushion for the Unexpected
The thing about big, life-changing goals is that they are never quite as straightforward as initially believed. The fact of the matter is that sooner or later, something unexpected is going to come up and chances are that it will come with a financial cost. Having a cushion for these unexpected expenditures will help you navigate the unforeseen challenges of reaching your goals.
For example, few people realize how truly expensive children can be until they come along. Furthermore, no one plans to have difficulties having children when the time comes, but that is a possibility as well. Budgeting in excess for children is a must in this day and age, and being prepared for the possibility of adoption or other non-traditional forms of having children isn’t a bad idea either.
Life can change rapidly, no matter your current financial status. Even unexpected expenses that aren’t at all related to your big goals can become factors that will push your goals farther away. For instance, unexpected health expenditures are great things to save for, especially as you age. Sooner or later, the health of you or your loved ones is bound to interfere with some plans, having a goose egg saved up for that can make a difference.
Enjoy the Ride
Budgeting for the long-term isn’t always easy. Chances are that sooner or later you will be forced to choose between your long-term budgeting and doing something spontaneous and fun. At this juncture, you will almost certainly have to sit down and take another good, hard look at your goals and where you are willing to make sacrifices.
Though reaching your goals is incredibly important to your ultimate life happiness, so is making small exceptions here and there that will allow you to enjoy the smaller things in life. Sure, you probably shouldn’t eat every meal out or buy the fanciest thing on the menu, but you can splurge and treat yourself to a nice dinner with friends and family on occasion. These small joys are the things that can make life worth living.
Making allowances for some of these smaller splurges can be beneficial to your overall budgeting plan. Much like dieting, sticking to a super strict budget doesn’t work for very long and can make your spending worse when you finally do crack. Recognizing when you’re spending money too freely is one thing, but so is recognizing when you are trying too hard to save.
Whatever your goals are, they are worth pursuing to the best of your ability. Figuring out a strong financial plan to get there is an important aspect of meeting your goals. Creating a budget, creating a cushion for unexpected expenses, and allowing for occasional splurges are all part of the process. Good luck!
Guest Author Bio
Jori Hamilton is a writer and journalist from the Pacific Northwest who covers social justice issues, healthcare, and politics. You can follow her work on twitter @HamiltonJori, and through her portfolio at Writer Jori Hamilton.