Everyone wants to plan a big, exciting trip – to travel, to visit friends, to seek out nature or to just get away. We all start the new year hoping to take the vacation we’ve always dreamed of. The problem is, it is a dream for a reason – we haven’t thought about the execution needed to make the dream a reality. There are two ways to look at dreams; things that will never be realized, only fantasized, or a series of small goals that, once achieved, can make the dream a reality. I’d like to talk a bit about the latter and how you can make your dreams a reality. It takes a simple exercise and some self-discipline but I believe most of your “wildest dreams” are actually quite attainable.
The biggest obstacle to achieving most dreams or goals is financial. If only I had the money, I would do X. Money seems like the biggest obstacle, but it is actually the easiest “unknown” to manipulate since it is predictable for most people. Take the dream of seeing my favorite team win the Super Bowl for instance. You have no control whether your favorite team makes the Super Bowl but you do have control over whether you can afford tickets if that does happen. Using simple math and a native smartphone app, you can get on track to achieving your goals tomorrow.
Let’s start with the money needed to achieve the goal and then we can talk about how to track it. I will show my own dream as an example. In December 2014, I wanted to travel the world by Summer 2017. I had about $10,000 and estimated I needed $40,000 for the trip. Summer 2017 was about 30 months away so I had to save $1,000 per month for 30 months. It sounds daunting but I just had to focus one month/one week at a time. For simplicity, I made $2,650 per month for my job. My rent was $700, my car insurance was $100 and my student loan was $50. This left me with $1,800. I wanted to save $1,000 per month so my monthly budget was $800 or $200 per week.
With some simply math, I took a 2 1/2 year goal of saving $30,000 and turned it into a weekly focus of staying under my $200 per week budget. As soon as I had my budget, I started to track it. Every Monday morning, I took out my native Notes App in my phone and created a new note with $200 at the top of it. Every single time I made a purchase I simply wrote where I was spending money (grocery, restaurant, concert, etc.), the price I was paying and the money I had left in my weekly budget. It seems “annoying” to track each expense in my phone but we are always on our phones anyway. As soon as I signed the bill, I added it to my notes app and then I could easily see how much I had left in my budget for the week.
Very quickly you learn how to budget on the fly. If I got groceries, went out to lunch and went to a movie all on Monday, I would know I’d only like ~$120 for the other 6 days so I made an effort to not eat out the next few days. After about a month it became a habit and I always had a mental amount in my head of what I could spend the rest of the week. Some people say this takes the fun out of life but all it really did was stop me from ordering one more beer when I went out or skipping lunches during work when I could bring my own.
Fast forward 30 months and I successfully saved the $30,000 and it was all because I focused on hitting my budget each week and those week turned into months and pretty soon I was saving an average of $1,000 per month which lead me to my goal.
It is scary to pursue these far-out dreams. It is unrealistic at first. Saving money is hard. But, if you create a weekly budget, enter your expenses in your phone, and track how much you saved each month you will be surprised about what you can do and what you can achieve!