If you currently live paycheck to paycheck and maybe have to “float” bills once in a while, I would suggest this as your first step. This can give you a much-needed cushion. Just remember that this should be kept stocked so if you take money out of it, be sure to replenish it or you’ll end up in the same situation.

I’ve heard many experts suggest somewhere between 3-6 months of living expenses for your emergency fund. That can be quite the chunk of change, especially if you are struggling to pay your bills. If this is the case, start with a smaller amount, like 1 month or even 2 weeks. Something is better than nothing.

 

Eliminate (or at least reduce) debt: An ultimate goal should be to pay off all debt. For some, this might take only a few months, but for others it could be a longer and more painful process. If you have a smaller amount of debt, you can make separate goals to pay off specific accounts (credit cards, car loans, etc.) and an overall goal to be debt free. If you have a larger amount of debt, you might want to set some goals based on a certain percentage or amount of your total debt. For instance, one of your goals may be “I/We will pay our student loan debt down $5000 this year” or “I/We will pay off 50% of our current car loan by XX date.” Reaching your smaller goals will help give you the motivation to continue onto the larger goals.

 

Retirement Contributions: If you are not contributing to any kind of retirement plan, your first goal may be to start doing so. If you are already contributing, perhaps you can set a goal to increase your contributions by X amount a month or to contribute a total of X amount in one year. I suggest you try and stretch yourself a little here. If you are currently saving $100 a month to retirement, maybe make a goal of $1500 for the entire year. That way you’ll be looking for ways to add an additional $300. It’s amazing how creative you can be and where you can find money when you are motivated to reach a goal.

 

Save for a Large Purchase: Maybe you want to buy a car in the near future. Instead of going out and obtaining a loan for a brand new one, maybe your goal can be to save up and pay cash for a car. If that goal is a little far-fetched for you, maybe you can save for a down payment of 25% or 50% of the purchase price. It will be harder than getting a loan for the whole thing, but you will have the satisfaction of knowing you saved for your car, plus you can use the money you save in monthly payments to help meet another financial goal.

 

Give More: For those already giving, set a goal to increase your giving by a certain amount or a higher percentage of your income. Or seek out another worthy organization beyond your church or even a person or family within your church that you can give to. If you aren’t currently giving, make a goal to start - even if it’s only $10 a month. It may seem like a small amount, but it can make a difference.  

 

Increase Your Net Worth: Your financial net worth is your bottom line for your finances. For those who don’t know, your net worth is how much you have in assets (savings, retirement, home equity, etc.) minus how much you owe - giving you the amount you really own. If you owe more money that you have in assets, you have a negative net worth. If you have more than you owe, you have a positive net worth.

Setting a goal to increase your net worth can help you stay focused on your bottom line. For instance if you pay off one bill but take out more debt somewhere else, that affects your net worth. If you have a negative net worth, you can set a goal to at least get in the positive. If you already have a positive net worth, set a realistic goal of where you want to be in a year or two or five.