Tips for Sticking to Your Financial Goals and Budget

By: Melanie Dabb, Extension Assistant Professor

February 25, 2022

a slip of paper labeled 'goals' being put into a piggy bank

The principles of financial management are simple, but simple doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s easy. One of the biggest challenges to reaching goals and developing financial habits is discouragement. It takes time and effort to stick to goals and often we lose interest when we feel we have put in a lot of work and only made a little progress. The key is to keep going. This article will give some tips for staying motivated and on track with your financial goals and budget. 

Rooting Your Action in Positive Thinking: According to Harvard Medical School, one of the key factors that helps people to be successful in their goals is having the goal rooted in positive thinking. Instead of using guilt, fear or regret as a motivator to reach goals, try changing the thought to focus on what you will gain by reaching the goal.  For example, instead of thinking, “I don’t have any money in savings, I’m so bad with money” try changing the sentence to, “If I start saving a few dollars here and there, the next unexpected expense won’t be as stressful.” 

Ensuring Action is Self-Motivated: Another factor in sticking to our action is having the goal be self-motivated. If it is a task that someone else is saying you should do, you’re less likely to do it. Taking the time to identify why you have created your budget and the goals you are trying to achieve with your budget will help make sticking to your budget and working towards financial goals more relevant to you. 

SMART Goals: Many people are familiar with SMART goals. SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound. 

  • It is important to set goals or actions that are specific. For example, instead of saying “I want to save more money” make your goal specific by saying “I will set aside $20 from every paycheck.” Having a laid-out plan will help you reach your goal. 
  • Next, there has to be a way to measure whether or not you’ve actually met your goal. If you start with a goal of, “I want to get $1000 set aside for savings” you’re going to be able to tell if you met that goal; whereas if your goal is simply to have money set aside, that could mean just $5 left in my account at the end of the month.
  • When we talk about goals being achievable we mean they need to be something that we can realistically do. Harvard Medical School also talks about this step. If goals are too big or unrealistic, we are far less likely to reach them, so it’s important to be honest about what we really can or can not achieve. 
  • The R in SMART stands for relevant. It has to be a goal that is important to you and contributes to your overall sense of wellbeing. As mentioned earlier in the article, the goal has to matter to you, not be something that someone else says you have to or should do. 
  • The last part of a SMART goal is time-bound. If we don’t put a due date on it, we may not ever get around to doing it. Putting a time restraint on a task helps create a sense of urgency to complete tasks. However, remember to be realistic about how much time is actually needed to accomplish a task, especially if you are on a tight budget. 
Identify Triggers and Barriers: One last tip for sticking to your budget is to identify what your triggers and barriers are. Ask yourself: what triggers lead to spending more than my budgeted amount or what keeps me from reaching my financial goals? Whatever these are, be proactive by anticipating these obstacles.  This will make it a lot easier when you find yourself in a situation where you are tempted to throw your budget or your goals out the window. 
These tips will help when facing the challenges of making new financial habits and sticking with them. Remember, any effort you make in the right direction is worthwhile. Recognize even the smallest accomplishment and keep working towards your financial goals and actions. 


Federal Trade Commission. Making a Budget. Retrieved from!what-to-know

Harvard Medical School. (2012, March). Why behavior change is hard - and why you should keep trying. Retrieved from

Purdue University Extension. (2017, December 18). Set Yourself Up For New Year Success With S.M.A.R.T Goals.Retrieved from Purdue University Extension:,New%20Year%2C%20make%20them%20S.M.A.R.T.!