How to set Financial Goals and reach them!


These 3 Setting Financial Goals Worksheets are part of a financial planning series called How to Make a Budget – Easy Steps for Beginners.

Do you have a financial goal? Yeah, I’m sure we’ve all dreamed of making a million, but have you ever figured out what it takes to get there?

Setting financial goals throughout your lifetime is an important part to building a budget, so don’t go rolling your eyeballs in my direction. Goal setting works, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. When I paid off a $17,000 student loan in six months it wasn’t because of luck or good genes — it was because I had a plan, man. Sure, I worked hard at cutting costs too, but paying down my student debt had everything to do with setting a goal and finding the motivation to follow a plan.

Financial goals can address your immediate needs, your long term dreams, and everything in between. Perhaps you’re saving for school, looking for a starter home, wanting to end your mortgage sooner, fancying a vacation, or just looking to fund your retirement. Everything is possible when you identify your personal financial goals and develop a plan for reaching them.

To show you this isn’t just a magic trick, I’ve put together 3 Financial Goals Worksheets to help you identify your short term financial goals, set your long term goals, and achieve results through planning and goal tracking.

I previously squawked about goal setting in the Job Hunting Series installment Stop Setting Goals! Start Gathering Goals! — so go take a peek if you’re looking to revamp both your financial and career goals.

Here is the mostly painless three-step process to setting financial goals.

Step 1: Set your short term financial goals

Short term financial goals can fund immediate needs for today, increase cash reserves for next month, or start needed savings for a year from now. A few example short term financial goals can include: buying a car, saving for a digital camera, taking a vacation, or funding the all important emergency fund.

You have an emergency fund, right? If not, take a peek at my scary MRI in Reasons to Build and Love an Emergency Fund — you won’t need to watch hospital dramas on television after seeing that mess!

Anyscaryscars, it doesn’t take much for a seemingly healthy person to be blindsided by a sudden illness or life emergency. It happened to me, it could happen to you. So let’s skip being a downer by making an emergency fund one of your first short term financial goals.

If you have emergencies covered, then feel free to save away for that thing you can’t live without.

goal setting short term financial planning goals
Download: Short Term Financial Goals Worksheet

Here’s how to do it:

  • List your short term financial goals.
  • Prioritize each financial goal.
  • Determine your target date to reach each goal.
  • Give each goal an estimated cost.
  • Account for money already saved for each goal.
  • Plan how to achieve your goals.

This isn’t a difficult task, it just takes some honest thinking to make each goal attainable and reachable. Maybe you need to cut back on eating out or find a second job to fully fund your financial goals. Sometimes the truth hurts and forces one to sacrifice, perhaps just a little. But reaching short term goals is easy if you put your mind to it.

Once you’ve reached your short term financial goals you’ll have more confidence and motivation to achieve your bigger, longer term goals.

Step 2: Set your long term financial goals

Got a money goal you’d like to reach in two to five (or more) years? This is a good time frame for setting middle to longer range financial goals. Perhaps you want to save for college and avoid student debt, or you’d like to switch jobs or choose a new career path, or you’d like to save for a home and avoid a mortgage meltdown — ok, no one wants a meltdown. 🙂

With specific longer term goals in mind you’re more likely to watch your cash in the shorter term and make better money decisions. If you’re feeling like a super saver, then go ahead and list an early retirement as your ultimate financial goal.

goal setting long term financial planning goals
Download: Long Term Financial Goals Worksheet

How to do it:

  • List your middle and longer term financial goals.
  • Prioritize each financial goal.
  • Determine your target date to reach each goal.
  • Give each goal an estimated cost.
  • Account for money already saved for each goal.
  • Plan how to achieve your goals.

Now don’t get befuddled with all these financial goals. If you have lots of short term goals and even more long term goals, make sure neither sets of goals are at odds. The money has to add up, and hopefully you can save a little for your short term and longer term goals at the same time.

Step 3: Achieve your goals!

Now that you’ve decided your short term and long term financial goals, it’s time to move towards achieving your goals. For this you’ll need to download the Achieving Goals Worksheet and mark off each milestone as you reach it!

achieving goals goal setting smart goals
Download: Achieving Goals Worksheet

How to do it:

  • Transfer each goal to this worksheet.
  • Under Total Cost, enter your estimated costs for each goal.
  • Divide your total cost for each goal by 12. This is the amount of money you need to save each month.
  • Save away!
  • At the end of each month, tally up and track your progress.

This goals worksheet is a great place to keep track of your progress over time. You may just feel inspired by how fast these little drips of money can add up to help you reach your financial goals sooner! Now go stick these worksheets in a three-ring binder. 🙂

Get the series, How to Make a Budget – Easy Steps for Beginners, for more free tools, tips, and downloads.

how to make a budget

Love love love,


  1. Justin April 3, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I like this series a lot! One piece of input I might offer is that, if a whole month is too long a time period – that is, if you’re the sort of person (like me) who needs IMMEDIATE success – you might break the year down into pay periods (biweekly) or weeks, so you can save more regularly and monitor your progress more often. Or maybe I’m alone on that…

  2. […] How to Set Financial Goals – 3 Financial Goals Worksheets | Squawkfox […]

  3. laura@movetoportugal April 4, 2010 at 2:20 am

    These are great Kerry; especially No3. Thank you 🙂

  4. Sarah April 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    These are nice! I would love them *even more* if they were fillable, though, so I could type in my goals; any chance? 🙂

  5. […] How to Set Financial Goals – 3 Financial Goals Worksheets Sometimes, a tool like this can make it a lot easier to sit down, figure out your goals, and get them down on paper. (@ squawkfox) […]

  6. CBOT April 7, 2010 at 5:55 pm

    It’s nice! i have never had financial planing goal before. but, with the sheet, i think it will be not too complicated.

  7. Harry April 9, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    These goal sheets are pretty neat.

    I find what works for me is a goal setting app called GoalsOnTrack and it has worked very well. It saves me a lot of time in keeping track of my goals and most importantly it helps me better organize my daily todos towards achieving my goals. You may want to check it out.

  8. […] presents How to Set Financial Goals – 3 Financial Goals Worksheets. You can always count on Kerry to create a worksheet to help you get better organized. Despite how […]

  9. […] Squawkfox: How to Set Financial Goals – 3 Financial Goals Worksheets […]

  10. Lao R, July 4, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    Hello, I was just wondering what about if you live check to check like me??? As of last year I have dedicated myself to paying off my debts and i have, I am presently in the process of even changing cellular phone plans to save $ on the monthly bills and switched to a cheaper cable/dsl plan to save even more $$$, however, this is my deal I have ONLY two credit cards with only a $600 limit, and paying off an old debt which I owe $428 so I am close paying that off. I have done my numbers my monthly bills (utilities, and credit cards) add upto $239, now my take home is pretty good, however, my mortgage is at an adjustable rate of 6.5% and I owe $158000 on my home and $89000 in student loans, which the payments are at$820/month!!! Those are my two highest bills, how can I pay them off quickly?? What can I do to lower the monthly payments? Now my credit is not that bad but it ain’t that good, but it has increased since I have been paying off just about all my debt, just this month I saved $800 but that was due to overtime which is not guaranteed. And when I do get it, I save that extra money I dont consider it part of my paycheck, I tell myself don’t count that extra money as part of your regular check, so I put it away. But I would really love to know how pay off the mortgage and student loans??? What can I do please help.
    Thank you.

    Lao R.

  11. A. November 8, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks so much for these worksheets! I was looking for a way to keep my goals in front of me and have a way to keep track easily. Thanks again!

  12. Amanda February 6, 2012 at 6:08 am

    This definitely helped me. As a high schooler, learning an easier way to get through financial planning is very pleasing. 🙂

  13. RJ August 5, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I use “Smarty Pig” for my goals. I have each goal set up with the date I need the money (such as the month when all my insurance policies come due) and have smarty pig draft my checking account so that the month before they are all due, I have the money. Smarty Pig is currently paying 1% interest posted quarterly. I also have one goal account that I notify the pig to draft whenever I have a ‘extra’ money – it’s my ‘just in case’ account.

  14. Tejas April 18, 2013 at 9:52 pm

    Kerry, Good reading..
    I am also big fan of Excel sheet to track my daily, monthly and yearly expense as well as case flow.
    One numbers are set, its easy to chase the objective. Be it wealth build up or keep expenses under control.
    Keep up the good work! 🙂

  15. Joel July 22, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Hi. Just wanted to let you know…. about 11 years ago I gave up my cable subscription. This gave me $600.00 to spend on other things. i.e. season packs of DVD (on sale) and I have never gone over the $600.00 per year. My gross savings over the period is approximately $6,600.00 (based on 2003 cable costs) probably much more as cable costs have increased. I have all of the shows that I enjoy to watch…on my terms, any time, day or night. My news feeds are from Google News, as is the weather and sports.

    Five months ago I cancelled my telephone account and installed an IP telephone. The cost for this was $49.95 for the unit, $10.00 for a Canadian number and a yearly cost for the service of $30.00. This gives me a saving of about $700.00 per year over the BIG carrier. I have not had any issues with the service to date. Also I have FREE long distance in North America, call display, touch tone, voice mail, call forwarding and conference calling…..all included in the $30.00. The only thing I will not skimp on, is my Internet connection. My telephone savings alone covers the Internet cost.

    My estimated yearly savings at todays rates, for the cable and the telephone….probably $1,800.00 per year.

  16. Gerald September 18, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    I would like to get the achieving goals spreadsheet in an Excel file instead of a pdf file. Thanks

  17. Peter December 31, 2015 at 2:00 am

    hi Kerry

    Is there anything new you can add for 2016?

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