Don't Set Financial Goals. Do This Instead. – The Worth Project

by admin

Slowly, money wasn’t a disjointed element that I would make boring goals for and hope they would stick. It was a tool that was going to help me live the life that I wanted to.

They say that the easiest way to know what someone values is to look at their bank account. By thinking about what I wanted – how I really wanted to live – I began to see that reflected in my bank account. No longer was I scraping money together to pay my student loan. I began to pay more than what I needed to.

I became obsessed with spending smarter and only buying the things that made me the happiest. Not because I was sticking to a budget, but because I was really mindful of how I wanted to live my life. Buying the things that made me happiest didn’t mean cutting out the cute shoes or vacations, but it made me more aware of all the dollars that were leaving my bank account.

Some of the money I was happy to see go because I was getting something great in return and it was adding to the life I wanted to live. Other money, I realized, was leaving my bank account and wasn’t bringing me a lot of happiness (I’m looking at you Whole Foods salad bar).

I became hyper-focused on paying off the remainder of my student loans because I knew being debt free would help me navigate the inconsistent income that comes when you start working for yourself.

I started making more because it would enable me to do the things I was excited to do, like travel, pursue work I actually enjoyed, and take that really great yoga class down the street.

Making communication easier

Conversations between Jordan and I shifted drastically. Instead of the usual, “should we buy a house?” conversation, we got back to the basics and started talking about how we wanted to live. While on the surface level I assumed we were always on the same page (save for retirement, save for a house), there was so much we inadvertently left out of the conversation.

We began talking about our ideal day. We would then talk about what we hoped our life would look like a few years down the road.

Our bank account started to grow more and we began putting pen to paper (or numbers to spreadsheet) for these big goals in life. Goals we were excited about. Goals that involved money and our lifestyle. Everything from what car he wanted to get to the next trip we wanted to take, to the house we will someday build.

We purchased a piece of land that may have seemed impulsive or like a poor decision to other people, but that goal came directly from so many conversations of us asking, “how do we want to live?” and then taking the daily action to get there.

This question and these goals still get us out of bed every morning and make us excited to know that we’re choosing to live our life in alignment with these goals.

Do we do this perfectly? Heck no.

We each have those days and make our mistakes with money. That’s one of the reasons I decided to start chronicling goals this year – it’s another form of accountability and it’s a great way to be transparent. Because sometimes we do mess up. But those mistakes don’t detract us from the bigger life goals we have.

Celebrating the piece of land we bought (on a windy, grey day)

The tactics in action

Just because I adopted asking this question rather than sitting down and writing out specific money goals, didn’t mean that I abandoned my spreadsheet loving self. I do love a good spreadsheet.

I’d take my question: “How do I want to live?” then move to, “how much will it take to fund that?”, and then finally, “what am I going to do to get there?”

Big questions + numbers in a spreadsheet helped me to actually enjoy watching myself get to the goals.

You can get the entire process broken down with a spreadsheet to help you put it all together. Get the spreadsheet and the entire organization guide from the “Get it Together” guide in the toolbox.


I’ve just written an entire article about how we’ve shifted our focus from strictly money goals to focusing on how we want to live. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck or struggling under a mountain of debt, you’re likely eye-rolling and thinking that there is no way this article relates to you and your situation.

And it might not.

It worked for me to be less bitter about paying off my loans and to pay them off faster. It’s worked to improve communication between Jordan and I. And it’s helped us to (mostly) avoid FOMO because we really do focus on exactly how we want to live.

If setting money goals in the past hasn’t worked for you, asking this question might make a difference. At the very least, it might help change your perspective. It might help you visualize and get excited about what your life could look like. It might change how you make small decisions every day.

And the small, mindless decisions that we make day to day and month to month impact our bank account more than most of us ever realize.

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