The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Money Goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R

When it comes to goal-setting, the S.M.A.R.T. goal system reigns supreme in its methodology. According to this approach, goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. To make them S.M.A.R.T.E.R., goals must also be able to be evaluated and rewarded or readjusted.

This year, the hubby and I made the joint decision to focus our financial efforts on making a dent in the balance on his car. In theory, this is a good goal but because it’s vague AF without a clear timeline, among other things, it’s not a S.M.A.R.T. goal. So back to the drawing board we went.

How to Make Your Money Goals S.M.A.R.T.E.R by top Atlanta personal finance blogger, Danielle YB Vason of She Makes Cents

How To Make Your Goals More Specific

Ask yourself these questions: What do you want to achieve?  Why do you want to achieve it?  Who needs to be on board for this goal to be successful? If your written goal doesn’t address these questions, then revise.

We needed to improve our goal because we didn’t clarify what a “dent” represented numerically.  Was a dent $1,000.00, $5,000.00, $10,000 or more?  I realized quickly that we were not on the same page.  Making a dent in the remaining balance for his car became a more specific goal once we decided we wanted to get our balance down from $17,601.01 to $5,000.00 or less by the last day of this year.  To be successful at this money goal, my hubby and I would need to combine forces because our “dent” represented a $12,601.00 reduction.  This goal is important to us because the sooner this debt is eliminated, the sooner we will be debt-free (not including mortgages), we can move on to Dave Ramsey’s Baby Step 3, and focus on increasing our savings and sinking fund contributions.

Giving this goal a deadline of the last day of the year OR a balance of $5,000.00, whichever comes first, makes it measurable and timely.  It checks off both prerequisites because it identifies how and when we would consider this goal accomplished.

Are Your Goals Realistic & Attainable?

Setting unrealistic goals is a set up for failure and defeat- both of which can kill your spirit and drive to pursue future goals.  This is why if you follow Dave Ramsey’s Baby Steps the first step is to save only $1,000 because the gratification of reaching your first goal inspires you to move on to the second.  

Setting goals that are too easy can also be a set up for failure because an easy goal requires lower expelled energy and effort, which lowers motivation.  Finding the right balance is like Goldielock’s breaking and entering to find the perfect porridge.  Your goal has to be just right…

In her book, Boss Women Pray, by Kachelle Kelly, she asserts that “a goal can be both lofty and practical”.  When I read that, I immediately thought about how the idea of paying off my student loans was a lofty goal but also attainable.  The success in that was breaking the BIG GOAL down into smaller goals with specific benchmarks until the BIG GOAL no longer seemed so…well, big.

For the case of our $12,601.00 goal, it is a bit lofty in the sense that it requires us to expel higher energy, intention, discipline, and sacrifice for it to be achievable. Once we set down and figured out how much we could afford to put into this goal right away and then figured out how much we would need to save per quarter to stay on track, our joint goal also became practical. I even went so far as to break the goal down on a micro level to see how much we would need to save per month and per week to stay on track.  Seeing those numbers and that information all at once, made the goal that could seem too lofty become feasible with the right amount of effort and action.

Even though paying off $12,601 on the car loan doesn’t eliminate the debt completely, it is relevant because it does link to the larger objective of ultimately paying the car off in full.  Once we reach our goal this year, we will only be $5,000.00 away from a debt free life (not including mortgages). 

Going the Extra Step from S.M.A.R.T. Goals to S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals

The difference between the S.M.A.R.T. and S.M.A.R.T.E.R. goals acronym is the “E” and the “R”, which represents evaluated and rewarded or readjusted.  In your goal-setting journey, it is imperative that you evaluate your goals on a regular basis to make sure you are on track.  This is why the #SMCmoneytribe check-ins occur weekly (join the SMC Money Tribe on Facebook). If you find yourself off track and constantly dodging obstacles, then it is time to revisit the goal, tweak where it is necessary, and get back on the goal-setting journey.   If, however, your regular check-ins reveal that you are on track for the timeline for your goal execution, take a moment and celebrate that!  Taking the time to acknowledge where you started versus how it’s going, not only honors your hard work, but it may also inspire someone else in the process.


Often women are left to fend for themselves with regards to money matters. As an active member of the #SMCmoneytribe, you will no longer have to walk the path toward financial freedom and a fabulous lifestyle alone. Should you get off track, you can always catch up or start over, we just ask that you don’t give up on this challenge, your goals, or yourself. YOU can do it and you have an entire TRIBE of people cheering you on.