In a perfect world, money would grow on trees and every financial obligation would be a breeze to overcome. Unfortunately for most, money is something that leaves our hands as quickly as it arrives, which can create stressful moments when unexpected situations arise. With trying financial times these days, how can we stretch our dollars to meet our needs and save for the future? My book, Trading Pain for Purpose, overviews successful strategies you can use to meet your financial goals as well in both short-term and long-term. It is incredibly easy to set yourself up for financial success if the proper planning and strategy is the baseline to your money transactions. By taking a look at these easy and structured steps, you can help save for your future financial goals.

Budget (if you haven’t already) – Before understanding what money you have to meet financial goals, you most importantly need to understand how much money you have to work with. Budget your paycheck and other income vs. rent, car payments and other non-negotiable bills. Determine where you can cut back (do you really need that extended sports package on cable?) and shop around for better offers (cell phone companies are always offering lower competitive rates).

Determine your goals – An obvious step, but what exactly are you aiming for financially? It can be one large goal like saving for a brand-new car, or it can be multiple objectives like paying off student debt while getting a new refrigerator. To start your financial planning, writing out all of your goals is the first step to meeting your needs.

Create a timeline- When do you expect to meet these goals? This doesn’t have to be a specific day, but break up your goals into short term (less than 6 months) vs. long term (1+ years) and be as realistic as possible. Prioritize the most important and time-sensitive goals that can affect you if not dealt with (mostly debt-related).

Establish an amount – How much do you need to meet these financial goals? Create a higher amount of savings for your short term goals, and a smaller amount for long-term if possible at the time.  If paying off debt, take note to pay off the principal amount and not just interest. Many banks offer monthly auto-transfers to other accounts, which can be easier to manage for some.

Re-work your budget – Does this plan make practical sense? Add in another column to your budget to include financial goals. If you see your savings as an obligation, your future self will be thankful! Ensure that all costs are covered and that some extra money is available for emergencies. That extra cash can be spent on unnecessary items, or could build your future.

Be sure to monitor and re-visit your financial plan from time to time, as life can throw curve balls and change financial needs. As goals are met, there will be room to create newer and bigger ones. These simple steps will create a basic plan for meeting financial goals, and will allow you to work your dreams into a wonderful reality.