how to set financial goals
Time & Money Management

List of 28 Financial Goals That Will Transform Your Life {+ FREE Printables!}

how to set financial goals

Achieving financial goals takes more than just luck or good fortune. Accomplishing any goal that’s worthwhile takes commitment, perseverance, the ability to analyze your course and make adjustments, and the willingness to step out of your comfort zone.  

If you are looking to improve your financial situation, but aren’t sure where to start, this article is for you!  We’re highlighting some financial goals to set to improve your bottom line and change your future.

No matter where you are in your financial journey, you can find something from our list to begin goal setting today!

What is a financial goal?

A financial goal is any goal that you set to improve your financial situation.  Financial goal examples can include increasing the amount of money you bring in, managing your money more effectively, or setting a goal to invest that money more wisely.

Be sure to snag the FREE Financial Goal Setting Printables below to start planning and tackling your own financial goals.  This printable will help you create term specific SMART goals, and get you thinking about the specific steps you’ll need to accomplish to make those dreams a reality!


Short-term goals versus long-term goals

Short term goals are those which you set to achieve within a few months to a few years.  Generally, they deal with more immediate expenses and regular habits. Setting and accomplishing short-term goals is the ticket to ensuring you can achieve your long-term financial goals.  

Long term goals generally take years to decades to achieve, depending on the fervor in which they are tackled. These are the big-picture goals you set for your life, such as retiring early, buying a vacation home in the tropics, paying for your child’s college education costs, or traveling the world after you retire from your 9-5.

Your distant goals typically involve more money and more regular attention than short-term goals.

setting financial goals

What are medium-term or intermediate goals?

Intermediate goals lie somewhere in between short-term and long-term goals.  Generally, these goals take a few years to accomplish, but they aren’t something you’ll likely have to work decades to achieve.

List of financial goals: short term

1. Make a budget- and stick to it!

Every goal starts with a plan.  Improving your financial picture starts with a budget.  Whether you are creating a monthly budget that gives every dollar a job (zero-based budget), or you want to give a 50/30/20 budget a try, commit to making a plan and giving it a go for at least 3 months to determine how it’s working.

2. Commit to weekly or bi-weekly budget meetings

You don’t know if you’re sticking to your plan unless you regularly check in and see how you’re progressing.  Use these meetings to make changes or tweak processes.

3. Cut excess spending

If you only want to work within the confines of what you currently make (not get another job or start a side hustle), cutting excess spending is the most obvious choice to reduce debt and get more money to work with.

4. Eliminate expensive habits

I know of a couple who lost their home to foreclosure because they couldn’t keep up with the monthly payments.  Then I learned that they each smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.

Even on the low side of $6/pack, that’s $8,760 a year toward a nicotine addiction!  An average of $730 a month for cigarettes- more than the cost of their mortgage. If they could have found a way to reduce or eliminate that expensive habit, the situation would have had a much different ending.

Whether your vice is cigarettes, coffee, shopping, or lifestyle costs, trimming down the money you spend on your expensive habits can go a long way in improving your financial future.

how to set financial goals
Learn to make cafe style cappuccinos at home for a fraction of the coffee shop cost.

5. Start an emergency fund ($1,000)

Work to get $1,000 saved up for an emergency fund.  Sell stuff, work side jobs, or cut expenses to find the money to put toward this goal. Then, keep it for true emergencies!

Your favorite artist coming to town for a concert is not an emergency.  Your car breaking down on the side of the road qualifies.

One thousand dollars is enough money to handle a variety of life’s unexpected expenses, so save it for those cases and rebuild it as soon as possible for the next time Murphy’s Law strikes.

6. Insurance check-up

It can pay to check in on your insurance rates every couple of years.  Often, you can score better rates or get more coverage for your money. Take a look at car insurance, home insurance, and life insurance needs. 

7. Limit large {unnecessary} purchases

While some large purchases become necessary or urgent (hello, broken AC in the middle of August), many can be postponed short term, or indefinitely.  Postpone that new furniture, upgraded appliance package, or designer purse until you are in a better financial state. If you really want to purchase it, create a sinking fund and pay cash.

8. Start sinking funds

When you routinely set a particular amount of money aside for the purchase of something, you create a sinking fund.  Sinking funds can be used for anything under the sun- cars, vacations, furniture, or fancy purses included.

9. Spending fast

Try a spending fast where you don’t spend any money (except for true necessities) for a certain period of time.  Try a weekend fast, then work your way up to a week, 21 days, a month, or even a year!

10. Try a challenge

I love a good challenge!  Search for some challenges that will stretch your financial muscles.  Competition (even with yourself!) can do wonders for motivation. There are challenges where you don’t buy anything new for a year to challenges that invite you to use up all the food in your pantry before you go to the store.  

A great challenge provides an opportunity to stretch yourself in a way you might not have thought you could, and saving money becomes a direct result.  Plus, you grow in confidence and learn something new about yourself every time you succeed!

Check out some of the featured challenges we’ve tried so far here at Slow Motion Mama:

Declutter the Year Challenge

How I Failed the 30-Day Minimalism Game

Minimalism Challenge: Tracking Incoming Items

11. Save on utilities

Consider ways to save on your fixed and regular monthly bills.  Energy charges, cell phone services, garbage collection, cable, internet…almost all of these things can be comparison shopped to get better deals.  Check out how we cut $45 from our monthly expenses (and will grow it to over $160,000) with just one hour of work.

find money

12. Reconsider your monthly “essentials”

Take a look at your monthly expenses and figure out where you can cut back.  Look for places you pay for multiple services that are similar (like Netflix and Hulu), subscriptions you don’t use, or things you could eliminate that don’t truly impact the quality of your life.

13. Automate your bills & savings

Automation frees up your time and creates peace of mind.  When you set your regular bills to autopay, you don’t have to think about paying them- and you don’t accrue late fees due to forgetting!  

Similarly, you can set it up so that money from your check goes directly into savings, making building that emergency fund a cinch!  You could also direct deposit part of your check into a Capital One 360 Savings Account to build those sinking funds!

14. Create a debt payoff plan

When you’re in debt, the only way to get out of it is to make a plan and stick with it.  Create a plan to tackle the burden that’s holding you back from achieving the life you’re after.  

There are so many physical, financial, and relational benefits of being debt free, and they all start with creating a plan.

15. Set a personal savings goal

If saving money is top on your list of financial goals, try setting a personal savings goal.  Decide to save X amount of dollars in a week, a month, or a year.

Download our free, simple financial goals printables to keep track of your progress!


16. Get a second job or side hustle

If becoming debt-free is a financial goal you’ve set for yourself, consider getting a temporary second job or creating a side hustle. Multiple income streams are a great way to tackle debt fast and get you on the road to pursuing your passions.

17. Life insurance & disability coverage

If you have life or disability insurance, take a look at your policy and see if a newly updated health screening could save you cash each month.  Or, check with a broker to see if you are getting the best coverage and rates.

When we revisited our life insurance, we realized a new health screening could lower our rates.  Sure enough, it reduced our monthly premium by 50%!

how to set financial goals

18. Live on less than you earn

Set a personal savings goal to live on less than you make each check.  The bigger the gap between what you earn and what you spend, the fatter your pockets will grow.  

Ideally, you want to be spending WAY less than you earn, but for those of you struggling to make ends meet, this is a great place to start.

List of financial goals: medium-term

19. Build a 3 to 6-month emergency fund

While a $1,000 emergency fund will help you with the occasional, unexpected expense, it won’t make a dent against a major life crisis.  Job loss, home loss, death of a spouse, or other major life changes can destroy more than just your finances. Protect yourself by building a three to six-month emergency fund.  

To determine your ideal savings amount, figure out what your typical expenses are for one month.  Then, multiply that number by three, four, five, and six.  

Monthly Expenses Three Months Four Months Five Months Six Months
$3,000 $9,000 $12,000 $15,000 $18,000


Work to get three months saved up, then continue to add to your emergency savings until you reach 6 months of expenses saved.

20. Become debt-free

This is one of the biggest financial goals for building long-term success with money.  Being debt-free opens you up to a world of choices and possibilities, so the sooner you can get there, the better!  

Work several of the short term financial goals from above to speed up the process and keep you motivated! Download the free goals printable to help you set, track, and achieve your financial goals!


21. Put aside money for retirement

Setting aside money for retirement is one of the best ways to treat your future self.  Don’t assume you’ll be able to work into your later years. Your health might fade. Your job might be eliminated.  Your ability to accomplish tasks might not be what it used to be. By investing part of your income today, you are protecting yourself from the unknowns of tomorrow.

22. Pay cash for a large purchase {from a sinking fund}

Those sinking funds we mentioned above?  They are a great way to set financial goals for paying cash for large purchases like cars, vacations, or even a house!  Use that money you’ve been squirreling away to make a big purchase- with CASH!

how to set financial goals
Our anniversary trip to Kauai was paid for from our vacation sinking fund.

23. Pay off student loans

Don’t fall for the lie that you’ll always have student loans.  You don’t have to pay interest on education loans for the remainder of your working years.  Instead, develop a plan to pay them off and then tackle them!

When we began paying off my husband’s student loans, he had a handful of loans that totaled around $25,000.  We started by paying off the smallest loan first, knowing that it would be more motivating for us to completely pay off one balance versus applying a lesser amount toward all of them.  

Once we tackled one, we rolled our payments onto the loan with the next smallest principle. We continued that way until all of the loans were wiped out, which took us about a year or so.  

List of financial goals: long term

24. Invest to cover your monthly expenses

Once you’re debt-free, begin investing your extra cash to build up reserves.  The idea is to invest money and build wealth so that you can eventually draw 4% from the investments to live off of.

If you’re wondering why 4%, that’s the number most financial analysts say you can safely draw off of your investments without reducing your nest egg, as it’s mostly investment dividends and interest earned.  Don’t touch the principle and continue adding to your investments every month.

Set a financial goal to have enough invested to cover a month of your living expenses, then two months, three, and so on.

25. Plan for {early} retirement

Maybe you can’t imagine retiring before age 65, or even 70.  And maybe you won’t. But maybe you will. And if you do, you’ll be glad you planned for early retirement.  

Don’t look back with regret over the money you squandered away on stuff.  Instead, be mindful of your financial picture and plan for multiple options.  If you plan on early retirement, but you end up working longer, no harm. Your savings will be ready and waiting when you are.

26. Start a college fund or two

If you worked hard to pay off your school loans early, you recognize the beauty of that freedom.  Consider investing some of the extra money you have freed up into college funds for your children. Give them the gift of graduating from college without the heavy burdens of debt.  

If they decide college isn’t for them, gift them the money for a down payment on their first home or the capital they need to start a business.

how to set financial goals

27. Pay off your mortgage

You’ll always have a mortgage.  Another financial lie.

The truth is, you don’t always have to have a house payment.  You don’t have to spend 30 years paying off a house, accruing enough in interest payments over that time that you pay for it twice over.  

Instead, buy a house with a 15-year mortgage and work to pay it off early. Then, take the money you aren’t spending on your house and put it toward your other financial goals: plan for your children’s college, save for your early retirement, or travel the world!

28. Leave a legacy

The ultimate financial goal is for your money to benefit others and outlast yourself.  What good is money if it’s squirreled away and used for nothing?

Consider creating some long-term legacy goals to remind yourself that the greatest thing you can do with your money- and your life- is to give it & live it generously!  

Give money to your passions.  Fund a scholarship at your alma mater.  Give to a fine arts school or nature center.  Start a nonprofit or give generously to a mission you’re passionate about. Support your favorite charity or house of worship. Leave an inheritance for your children and your children’s children.

Want to set some financial goals, but don’t know where to start? Check out this example list of financial goals. Whether you want to save money, become debt free, or pay cash for a car or home, our free, simple financial goals printables will help you set and track personal finance goals that you’ll actually accomplish! #financialgoals #freeprintable #moneymanagement

Financial goals: the long & short of it

In the end, money is a tool.  Incorporate short, medium, and long-term goals to improve your financial forecast and get out of debt.  And along the path to financial freedom, remember your why. Keep an eye on your priorities and your big-picture goals. Work to leave a legacy.

Download our printable worksheet to start setting and tracking your financial goals today! It’s easy to use and completely free!

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  1. Wow what a thorough article with tons of good ideas. Lots of food for thought. Saving is on my mind since committing to a family Disney trip. It’s so expensive. Do you have any good posts about travel savings?

    1. Hey, Andrea! So glad you found the article helpful! A family trip to Disney sounds like a great time for memory making! I don’t have a specific post written about tactics for creating a travel savings plan just yet, but I do have a 6 part series on traveling on a budget. Perhaps you will find some good nuggets there!

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