The Surprisingly Easy Secret to Reaching Financial Goals

If saving money and reaching financial goals is overwhelming, believe it or not, creating more goals is NOT the answer. There is a surprisingly easy secret to reaching financial goals – and it will take you less than one hour a month! When your money plans aren’t going according to plan, you need to know how to make small, but meaningful, changes in the way you are organizing and implementing your goals!

What is the difference between those who struggle with finances – versus – those who overcome and succeed? While there are certainly some things you should avoid doing if you want to save money, that’s not the key to success.

So, what is keeping you from saving money? The real difference resides in the understanding how to set up goal systems. In order to reach financial goals you must have a well-thought-out, easy-to-follow system of tracking your progress toward those goals.

For many years we have used a super simple system, which has allowed us to live below our means reach great big goals on a low income. Following these steps will transform your progress on reaching financial goals and take you from “frustrated and frazzled” to “energized and excited”.

To watch us talk about the six-step system and give in-depth examples, watch the video below.


We talk a LOT about the importance of goals. In fact, we’ve often told you that we can show you all day long how to save money, but if you don’t have written goals, you are only seeing half the picture when it comes to frugal living.

But there is ONE thing that is vitally important. So important that it completely overshadows even having goals.  

In his book , Atomic Habits, James Clear penned, “You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems.”

Systems are the key to reaching your great big, nearly impossible goals. A set of interlocking, specific, reachable goals which includes key actions which you incorporate into your life to reach them comprises a complete goal system.

Here’s an overview of our simple six-step system, which will clarify your written goals and show you how to define the essential tasks you should be working on, each day.

Step 1: Begin with the end in mind

Money is value-based. Money, and how we understand its purpose, is related to our worldview. Our financial decisions reflect our priorities, aspirations, and even our deepest moral and religious convictions. By aligning our financial goals with our values, we not only ensure that our resources are directed toward what truly matters to us but also create a more fulfilling, purpose-driven life.

Therefore, there absolutely should be a direct correlation between your financial goals and your values. Without defining your desired outcome (and why that outcome is important), you are wasting your time and resources.

STEP 2: Create SMART goals

All goals should be SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based.

That means that the statement, “I want to save more money”, isn’t really a goal (though may be a wish or a desire). A goal always includes a clear purpose and an amount of time in which you will reach it.

Rewriting our original example to include, “I will save $8000 by the end of September to pay for a new-to-me, reliable car for my son to drive back and forth to his college classes”, clarifies both the reason for the expense, the amount of money needed, and the length of time it will take to save it.

Define Your “Why”

For a final, and very effective way, to “supersize” any goal, add a “so that” statement. This supplies the emotional reasons for creating the goal.

A final rewriting of our used car example, with the addition of a “so that” statement would be, “I will save $8000 by the end of September to pay for a new-to-me, reliable car for my son to drive back and forth to his college classes, so that he will no longer need to worry about being stranded late at night when his car won’t start”.

The simple addition of a “so that” statement supplies a powerful, emotional motivation for finishing the goal.


STEP 3: Add a set of “action steps” to each goal

Action steps are four to six specific steps you will utilize to reach that goal. Each of these steps should contribute in a meaningful and concrete way to reaching the goal.

When writing quarterly goals, consider the “big picture”. What is your overall goal and how can you set yourself up for success? Goals which are further in the future automatically have less specific action steps associated with them.

For instance, if you are planning a vacation a year in advance, right now you action steps may include things like:

  • Deciding how far you want to travel.
  • What type of accommodations you are seeking.
  • Sights you may want to see or activities you may want to do.
  • If any of the above considerations changes your overall budget.

Here are some more things to consider when writing action steps for quarterly goals.

  • Do you need to complete more research about the goal?
  • Do you need to look over past spending trends in that area of your budget and figure out what habits you need to change?
  • Do you need to change to a less expensive service, downsize a plan, or “table” the goal until later in the year?

We use action steps for all of our goals: yearly, quarterly, monthly, and weekly. We suggest using fewer action steps for weekly goals, so that it doesn’t give your brain too much information to process and you won’t get overwhelmed by trying to do too much all at once.

STEP 4: Make sure your goals are interlocking

Envision your goals is like a staircase. Shorter length goals rest atop those which are longer in length. This makes the climb much easier, and you reach the top with much less effort and frustration.

Quarterly goals reflect the progress which has been made on yearly goals, while monthly goals are a reaction to the progress made thus far on quarterly goals.

The action steps get MORE specific as you have less time in which to complete them and you get closer to completing your goal. 

STEP 5: Understand how budget categories are related to one another

Avoid making shopping habits which are side steps (and don’t ultimately lead you any closer to your goals) and remember that your budget categories are all related to one another.

For instance, if your goal is to spend less on eating out, but you substitute eating just-as-high-priced, pre-made entrees from the store several times a week, you may feel better about your spending habits. Yet, you really aren’t saving any more money. You are just sidestepping the hard work of cutting back on your overall spending.


Instead, realize that your eating out habit is only a part of what you are spending to feed your family – and is directly tied to what you spend at the grocery store every week. To cut back on your entire food expenses, you need to monitor not just restaurant trips, but also weekly grocery trip costs.

STEP 6: Believe that you can do it

Watch your self-talk. Avoid telling yourself things like:

  • This plan will never work.
  • I can’t do this.
  • I’ll never reach that goal.
  • You can’t change.
  • It’s an impossible goal.

Goals are met when you truly believe you can reach them. There may be distractions and setbacks along the way, but when you refuse to dwell on them, and create action steps which make sense for you and your life, you’ll continue to make progress.

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