The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist

You can’t get anywhere without clear, specific goals. Here’s the ultimate guide to writing crystal-clear goals that will help you improve any area of your life: career, financial, physical. Feel free to download the checklist and start writing your own goals ASAP.

🔸Is it your goal—not someone else’s goal or expectation?

🔸Does it have a strong, emotional “why”? In Think And Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill says all thoughts which have been emotionalized (given feeling) and mixed with faith, begin immediately to translate themselves into their physical equivalent or counterpart.

🔸Is it specific?

🔸Is it measurable? ($100 each month for 12 months, 3 workouts a week) Anything that’s tracked usually grows.

🔸Is it attainable? Reach and dream, but understand what you really need to do or have to achieve your goals.

🔸Is it relevant to your values or a bigger vision? This goes back to your “why”.

🔸Does it have a deadline?

🔸Is it written on paper or typed? You become 42% more likely to achieve goals just by writing them down on a regular basis, according to a psychology study from Dominican University.

🔸Is it somewhere you can see it every day?

🔸Did you share it with another person? An American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) study found you have a 65% chance of completing a goal of you committing to someone.

🔸Did you list specific tasks you must complete to achieve the goal?

🔸BONUS: Is it written in the present tense? In No Excuses, Brian Tracy writes “Write them down in the present tense, as if you have already achieved them.”

🔸BONUS: Did you list potential obstacles and how you plan to overcome them? In Exponential Living, Sheri Riley writes “Preparation is the key to getting through the NOs, and getting through the NOs is the key to victory. Preparation equals expectation. To prepare is to have a plan. That means thinking about the obstacles you might face ahead of time, and having contingency steps ready to implement when those obstacles arise. You will face obstacles; the key is to not let those obstacles come as a shock to you. … if you mentally prepare for obstacles and have a plan in place for dealing with them, you’ll be able to remain engaged.”

The Ultimate Goal-Setting Checklist and Worksheet Wise Woman Wallet

Here’s an example of a clear goal:

Goal: As of Dec. 31, 2019, I have $12,000 in savings because I set up a savings account at a bank that doesn’t house my checking account, set up automatic deposits each paycheck of $500, went without some wants and prioritized savings in my budget.
Why? I want to be able to cover 4 months of my family’s expenses in case we lose our income.
Written or typed? Both.
Shared with: Bae and Instagram friends.
Daily reminder: On phone and nightstand.
Obstacles: Dipping into the savings account for wants or other goals.
Solutions: Save in an account with withdrawal limits and rename the account “Family Freedom Fund” to remember my “why.”

This is all backed up by science. Dr. Gail Matthews of Dominican University found more than 70 percent of the participants who sent weekly updates to a friend reported successful goal achievement (completely accomplished their goal or were more than half way there) compared to 35 percent of those who kept their goals to themselves, without writing them down.

Goal Achievement Study

Participants in Matthews’ study were randomly assigned to one of five groups.

Group 1 was asked to simply think about business-related goals they hoped to accomplish within a four-week block and to rate each goal according to difficulty, importance, the extent to which they had the skills and resources to accomplish the goal, their commitment and motivation, and whether they had pursued the goal before (and, if so, their prior success).

Groups 2-5 were asked to write their goals and then rate them on the same dimensions as given to Group 1.

Group 3 was also asked to write action commitments for each goal. Group 4 had to both write goals and action commitments and also share these commitments with a friend.

Group 5 went the furthest by doing all of the above plus sending a weekly progress report to a friend.

There you have it! Use this checklist to get started on your goals today. Happy goal-setting!

My Big, Fat Savings Goal + How I Plan to Achieve It

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

I had a big, fat debt payoff goal to pay off $18K in 2018. That’s not gonna happen. Instead of sending that money to FedLoan Servicing for extra payments, I’m going to build up substantial savings for myself.

Some folks may say you shouldn’t save several thousands of dollars until after you’ve paid off all of your non-mortgage debt. But I’ve realized having a large emergency fund will give me peace of mind and enough cash to cover several scenarios without having to sell something or get deeper into debt.

Check out this post to find 10 questions to ask to determine your savings goal: Emergency Funds: Why, Where and How Much to Save.

How much will I save in my emergency fund?

I’ve carefully considered real numbers from previous budgets to come up with these savings subgoals. The emergency fund could cover 5 things:
Click to read more.

Emergency Funds: Why, Where and How Much to Save

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

Several conversations over the past few weeks have made me take pause and reconsider my debt payoff strategy. I dove headfirst into debt payoff at the expense of saving a full emergency fund and, frankly, my peace of mind and protection as well.

The shame! Somehow I subconsciously believed that I’d be fine. Pay off debt! Pay off debt! Go forth and conquer!

But what if I lose my job? What if I have to fly from China to the States tomorrow for a family emergency? What if I need to pay for a surgery?

As of Sept. 7, 2018, I have less than $400 in savings in the States. Soooo very un-wise! (Un-wise sounds much better than stupid, right?) I got too excited about paying off debt and didn’t replenish my starter savings a.k.a. emergency fund when I dipped into it in December 2017.

“Paid In Full” be calling me, man! It just keeps calling me. These three words give me the same giddy feeling I get when someone places an unexpected gift in my hands—pure, unadulterated joy.

Now I have to switch gears. If I overpay FedLoan Surviving before resuscitating my savings, I can’t call ‘em up and ask for it back. It’s time to put myself first.

And if you don’t have an emergency fund, then it’s time to put yourself first, too.

What is an emergency fund? 

An emergency fund is a buffer between you and unexpected things that come your way. It is usually saved in a liquid account (i.e. savings account or money market account) for relatively easy access.

Let’s not think only in terms of an emergency but in terms of an opportunity to solve a problem or take advantage of something awesome with your savings.

Years ago, my cousin in my head, Patrice C. Washington, suggested calling it an Opportunity Fund. Words matter. If you keep calling your savings an Emergency Fund or Rainy Day Fund, then that’s what you’ll attract—emergencies and rainy days. Who wants to save for that?! Opportunity Fund or Sunny Day Fund sounds so much better.

Full disclosure: I only use emergency fund for SEO purposes. I agree with Patrice.

Emergency funds 101: Why, Where and How to Save

Learn 10 questions to ask to figure out how much to save.

How to Make Extra Principal Payments on Individual Student Loans

Lately, I’ve felt so free discussing my debt-free goals with close friends in China. When I shared how I finally paid off my undergraduate student loans 9 years and 1 month after walking across the stage, my friend, Ti, told me about a former co-worker who was taking longer than that.

This single father is approaching 40. One day, he looked at his statement and grew frustrated. The balances weren’t going down. He had been paying extra for a few years.

He called the company to complain. Little did he know that his extra payments weren’t being applied to his principal.

“Oh, no!” I groaned. “You gotta tell your money where to go.”

I’m sure many of us have played the leading role in this cautionary tale. But a few years ago, I wised up (pun intended). I learned how to make sure extra payments applied to my principal—not just my interest.

Make Extra Student Loan Payments to the Principal

Find out more!

The 5 Most Important Things I Did to Organize My Finances as a Newbie

*This post contains affiliate links. That means I receive a small commission that could help me on my debt-free journey —at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase using the links.

One of my best friends called me “the money expert” the other day and I chuckled. I thought, “Me?! Girl, bye!” Truth is: My last name is Wise, but I was anything but just a few years ago.

As a recent college graduate in North Carolina, I thought I had everything in control. I had a job in my field, which some of my friends couldn’t say, and I didn’t have to depend on my parents for anything. That’s because I was depending on Visa.

My level of financial literacy was non-existent. Neither Mom, Dad nor my teachers had ever taught me about managing money. When I decided to take responsibility for my financial life a few years ago, here are some of the most crucial steps I took to organize my finances.

1. Started seeking knowledge.

Everything starting with Call Number 332 was fair game at the local library. I think the first personal finance book I checked out was Girl, Get Your Credit Straight! That title gets to the point, doesn’t it?! I needed someone to be real with me and break things down simply. Author Glinda Bridgforth explained how credit scores were calculated and what I could do to get caught up. I even ordered my first credit reports. The more books I read, the more resentful I became for not knowing all of this already. More importantly, I grew more confident in my money management and decision-making skills.

2. Stopped using bills as coasters.

Avoiding money problems leads to more money problems, so I stopped tossing bills on my nightstand like frisbees and leaving them there to collect dust. When I opened up the Bank of America, Old Navy and CFNC statements, I finally confronted the numbers and saw how reckless I’d been. I also found out my mom had maxed out one of the credit cards in my name. The balances seemed insurmountable at the time. But I had, at least, conquered my fear of knowing the numbers so I could make a plan to clear the balances.


5 Ways I Organized My Finances Initially
Click here to read more.

10 Steps to Debt Freedom

You are taking a HUGE step in your life. Congrats! It’s so awesome that you want to get out of debt and are willing to seek knowledge on how to do it. If you want to go from confusion to clarity, then do these 10 steps. Don’t skip any.

The journey is tough but so worth it. Debt freedom is yours! Happy debt-crushing! Download the printable of this list and the debt-free pledge so you or a loved one can use it at home.

1. Get your mind right.

First, forgive yourself for having so much debt. And exhale. Perhaps your parents or guardians didn’t teach you proper money management. Forgive them, too. From now on, do not judge yourself for past mistakes. Debt does not define you. What you do with the debt does.

2. Declare your debt-free goal and create your “why.”

Say this out loud: “As of today, I am in control of my finances. I will not create new debt. I am striving to be debt-free by increasing my income, spending less than I earn and making extra debt payments. I want to be debt-free because _______________.”

Maybe your“why” is traveling or sending your kids to college loan-free. If you don’t have a strong, emotional reason for getting out of debt, then all of the budgets and checklists in the world won’t help you. When you lose motivation—and you will—remember your “why” to keep going. Repeat this declaration to yourself daily. Better yet: Write it on paper and sign it. You just made a debt-free contract with yourself!

10 Steps to Debt Freedom Checklist See the other 8 steps to get out of debt.

10 Steps To Paying Off Balance Transfer Cards Early

It seems simple, right? To pay off balance transfer cards—or any debt— you spend less than you earn and send the leftover money to the lender. That’s true, but there’s a lot more to it. You have to get your mind right and set up systems that support your debt-payoff goals.

I’ve successfully and unsuccessfully used balance transfer cards to pay off debt quicker. I don’t recommend them unless you’re disciplined and follow these tips. I nearly maxed out the latest balance transfer card and was determined to pay it off before the 0% interest rate expired in December 2018. In this post, you’ll find each step I took to pay off a balance transfer card 5 months early.

Balance Transfer Card Debt Breakdown
Here’s the timeline:
  • August 2017: I got approved for the Barclaycard Ring Mastercard, a 0% interest balance transfer card with a $0 balance transfer fee. Yep! I transferred my debts for free! I transferred two credit card balances and a grad school loan onto the balance transfer card (Bank of America Visa $2,194 + Old Navy Visa $1,943.87 + Grad School Loan $2,809.87 = Total $6,947.74).
  • December 2017:  I paid off the two credit card balances. Those interest rates were 19.40% and 25.24%, respectively.
  • July 2018: I paid off the balance transfer card in full.
  • December 2018: The date in which interest would have started accruing on the remaining balance if it were not paid in full.

10 Steps to Paying Off Balance Transfer Cards Early

Click here get the 10 steps to paying off a balance transfer card early.