Give Me Back My Five Bucks

How to stay on track and achieve your goals

Every January, most of us make some sort of resolution. Maybe we want to get out of debt, save more money, lose weight, learn a new skill – whatever it is, coming up with these goals is never the issue. It’s sticking to them that’s hard to accomplish.

And it’s about this time – mid February – where our enthusiasm has slightly faded, and maybe that awesome idea we had of signing up for a marathon, learning how to speak French, or not eating out as often anymore has gotten a little old.

I’m definitely guilty of making goals for myself in the past that I end up ignoring, or have no intention of keeping. So every winter when I decide what I want to accomplish for the upcoming year, I try to choose my goals based on these guidelines:

  • Choose realistic goals. One of the biggest mistakes most people make is choosing unrealistic goals. For example, if your annual income is $40,000, it’s not realistic to want to pay off $35,000 worth of debt in one year. It’s important to set your sights high, but only if you aren’t setting yourself up for failure in the process.
  •  Be specific. The reason why you want to be as specific as possible in your goal, is because you will know exactly what you have to do to – and when you have achieved it. Instead of saying “I want to put more money into my RRSPs this year,” try creating a specific goal by saying, “I want to put $250 from each pay cheque into my RRSP this year.” This gives you a clear task to accomplish, instead of something a lot more vague.
  • Create a plan. Resolving to change something in your life is the first step, but you need to create a plan to achieve your goal. I’m absolutely guilty of skipping this step. Last year, my goal was to increase my income… but because I didn’t create a plan to help me achieve that goal, I didn’t even come close. So for example, if your goal is to save at least two months’ worth of expenses, how will you go about doing that? Figure out how much money you will need to save, and divide that amount by the number of pay cheques you will receive during 2013. Then, set up automatic withdrawals from your chequing account each time you get paid. Taking the time to create a simple plan will ensure that you have a much higher probability of achieving your goals.
  • Tell other people about your goals. This is the reason why I started this blog! Telling friends and family members about what you hope to achieve makes your goals become real. The people you care about the most will be able to hold you accountable to your goals and provide support along the way. It might be a good idea to try to find someone in your life that has a similar goal. Working together provides motivation and provides a sense of camaraderie.
  • Review your goals often. Take the time to review your goals on a weekly and monthly basis. This will help you stay focused on achieving your goals, and help you figure out what strategies are working for you – and what aren’t. BF likes to use markers on his bathroom mirror to write down his goals. It forces him to review what he wants in life every single day, and I think that’s really helpful when it comes to staying on track.
  • Have patience. Achieving big things doesn’t just happen over night. It can be easy to get discouraged right away, but that’s when most people tend to give up and fall back into old habits. Anytime we work to change something in our lives, we are bound to stumble along the way – so have patience. Don’t give up if you don’t see progress right away. It will come in time.

In order to be successful with whatever you want in life, you have to be motivated. Decide what your most important goals are, and spend your energy trying to accomplish those things.

How do you make sure you stay on track with your goals?

Author: Krystal Yee

I’m a personal finance blogger and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I’m a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner’s Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I’m not working, you can usually find me running, climbing, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.


  1. TQ says:

    I really like this post. Thanks Krystal! :)

  2. Great post! I stay on track by reviewing my goals often and keeping track of them in a visual way so that I’m more likely to remember and keep going with them.

  3. I have found the goals I haven’t achieved we’re not doable because they weren’t specific enough or just not realistic. The more specific the better for me. If it’s a financial goal I will do a specific breakdown on how it will happen and if it’s something as simple as cutting expenses I will make it visual using an excel spreadsheet

  4. SP says:

    I’m pretty good about my yearly goals because a) I put a lot of thought into them b) I really care about them. Monthly goals haven’t been as effective for me because I tend to put things I think would be nice, but that I”m not absolutely committed to making a priority.

  5. Erin @ My Alternate Life says:

    Posting them on my blog seems to help keep me on track! I also made my goals super measurable on a monthly basis so I can keep checking in.

    My financial goal is a bit of a stretch this year, but it isn’t totally unrealistic! Wish me luck :)

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