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Make a Choice to Get Ahead Financially

Q. My wife and I want to get ahead financially. What can we do to make headway, especially when day-to-day living is so challenging? 

A. Life is full of challenges, and just making a living takes a great deal of effort. Nevertheless, even when day- to-day living takes so much of your money and attention, you need to keep an eye on the future. In fact, I’d encourage you to start with the end in mind by determining what you want and then making a plan to get there. Goal planning works, regardless of how much money you make.

Start by taking an evening and discussing together what you two truly want. Do you want a home? A new car?  Do you want a different job? Do you want to get out of debt?  Do you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck?  Do you want to build a savings account?  Make a list of the things you want.

Next, choose four or five things that you agree are important to both of you. Never mind that these goals may seem far away at that at this point in your life. Deciding what you want is a simple step, but one too many people miss. If you don’t know what you want, it is easy to get frustrated with your money and your life. 

Even if you’re living paycheck to paycheck, you still make decisions every day with your money. When you fill up your car with gas, do you have a habit of buying a soda or coffee, too? Do you take an extra couple of minutes to make your lunch, or are you more apt to eat out?  Do you use of up the leftovers, or do you usually throw them out?  Do you volunteer to work the extra hour of overtime to increase your income?  Are you willing to rent a less expensive place so you can save more?

You might think reaching your goals takes sweeping change, but cutting back a little here and there is one of the most effective ways to move you closer to what you want. Put the small amounts money you would normally spend in a jar for your goals. As the money in the jar increases, move it into a saving account. 

Over the years, I have seen people accomplish amazing things on a limited income. The key to their success was that they knew what they wanted, and they were determined to get there. Every choice they made brought them closer to what they wanted. I’m sure they encountered setbacks, but they kept going. You can do the same.

In a few short weeks, the holiday season will be upon us. Don’t get distracted by all the things people around you are doing and buying.  Instead, focus on your own goals so that you can make choices that will move you closer to what you want.  Once you build momentum, you’ll be amazed by the power of setting of goals.  

Bonnie Spain is the executive director of Consumer Credit Counseling Service of the Black Hills, a United Way member agency. For more information, email

The material in this transmission is provided for personal, non-commercial, educational, and informational purposes only. ACCE makes no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this transmission and assumes no responsibility for errors, inaccuracies, omissions, or any inconsistency herein. You should consult a professional where appropriate.

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