How to set achievable financial goals

2020-01-23 07:18

An accountability partner will help you stay on track and overcome challenges, writes Mapalo Makhu.

With every new year comes the sentiment that “this year, things will be different”. We get excited and dream big. We often set New Year’s resolutions to get out of debt, lose weight or increase our savings.

But, not even halfway through the year, we will have given up on most, if not all, of our good intentions. Why is this? Why do people get disheartened and throw in the towel when it comes to their goals?

It is because people often get overly excited and set grand goals. While there is nothing wrong with this, the ideas are not usually accompanied by a plan regarding how they will let go of old habits to build better ones. Without training ourselves to acquire new, better habits, the likelihood of successfully carrying out our resolutions is slim.

To achieve your financial goals for this year, do the following:


In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear says that habits follow a pattern – the first being the trigger that initiates the behaviour, the routine (the behaviour itself, the action you take), and the reward (the benefit you feel).

your accountability partner has to be someone who also wants to be frugal and smart with their financial decisions – an individual who fits your new mind-set and habits.
Mapalo Makhu

To build good habits, you first need to identify the habit you want to change. For example, if you are an impulsive spender, you will have to look into your past and see what triggers your impulsive spending.

When you are triggered, think about the reward and what that means for your budget. Instead of the instant gratification you get, consider how this purchase will leave you feeling a long time after you’ve bought that item.

Understandably, this pattern happens in a matter of seconds because this is how we’ve trained our minds over a long period of time, and that is why mindfulness is a requirement when you want to change any aspect of your life.


I often hear people say they want to get out of debt this year or want to become a millionaire, but I hardly ever hear people give details about their plans to achieve their financial goals.

Setting Smart financial goals – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound – financial goals brings clarity to your plan and it makes you realise what it will take for your goals to materialise.

What does a Smart financial goal look like?

Let’s say you want to get out of debt; instead of writing down a blanket statement such as “I will get out of debt this year”, say:

- I have debt of R50 000.

- I will not take on any more debt.

- By November this year, I will have paid off 80% of the debt – R40 000 (the goal is specific). This means that I will pay R3 636 a month across my debts (this is time-bound).

- I will do this by tightening my budget, eating out less and cancelling my subscriptions for 11 months (this is attainable because you have a plan regarding how you will achieve your goal).

- On November 31, I will feel incredibly proud of myself for this achievement and I will treat myself to a nice lunch (this is time-bound).

Writing down your financial goals makes them more tangible, giving you a higher chance of realising them.


The road to financial success can be a daunting and sometimes lonely one. And if you don’t have anyone to talk to about your challenges or celebrate your wins with, it can be easier to just throw in the towel, so an accountability partner can help immensely.

Firstly, an accountability partner has to be someone you trust because you will have to be honest about where you are financially and what goals you are trying to reach.

Secondly, your accountability partner has to be someone who also wants to be frugal and smart with their financial decisions – an individual who fits your new mind-set and habits. This could be a friend, partner or sibling.

Set challenges for one another. For example, both of you could take the 52-week savings challenge together. Make it fun!

Also set goals to help each other grow in your financial knowledge. You could, for example, pick a topic every month that will increase your financial literacy.

Educating yourself about how money works should be part of setting your financial goals.


How many times do we set goals at the beginning of the year and not revisit the piece of paper we wrote them on? Reviewing your goals regularly holds you accountable for what you set out to do.

It is a constant reminder of the work we need to put in to make our dreams a reality.

Review your goals every quarter to see how far you’ve come or how far you still need to go.

Make this the year of action.

Read more on:

personal finance

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March 29 2020