“A year from now you’ll wish you’d started today.” — Nick Loper

I have 2 questions for you:

  • What do you wish you’d done a year ago?
  • What would you like to have done one year from now?

These questions apply to a lot of areas of our lives, but right now, let’s talk about money (because, you know, this is Nest Egg Chick after all.)

The “I wish I’d….” feeling

It’s so easy to look back and say I wish I’d done something differently. I wish I’d eaten less sugar. I wish I’d learned out how to change the oil in my car. I wish I’d saved up $500 so that now I’d have the money for that thingamajig (yes, that’s the technical term) that I need.

But we often say these things in passing and then forget about them. Instead, I’d like you to pull out a pen and paper and write down 5-10 things you wish you’d done in the last year.

Done? Good.

Now it’s time to stop wallowing in the past and get excited about the future!

The crystal ball approach

If you’d had a crystal ball, maybe you’d have done a few of the things on your list. But what if you had a crystal ball and could see ahead to 1 year from now? Life is hard to predict, but we’re only talking about 1 year from now, so take a guess: what do you think you’ll wish you’d done 1 year from now?

(Hint: some of those things are probably on your list from the past year and others probably aren’t on the list yet.)

If you stay on your current path, do you think that 1 year from now you’ll wish you’d saved up money for that trip to Prague that you’ve always wanted to take? Will you wish you’d put money into your retirement account? Will you wish you’d paid off your credit card bills?

Be specific

Those things are all well and good, but it’s too easy to skip out on general stuff. Let’s get specific!

How much will you need for that trip to Prague? $4500? How about the retirement fund? Will you wish you’d saved $100? $1000? $10,000? How much will it take to pay off the credit card bills? $3000? $20,000? Write down your numbers!

Make the future you happy

Knowing this stuff is nice, but it doesn’t help you at all unless you do something about it. So let’s do something!

Write out everything on your crystal ball list. Then choose the 1-3 most important items, the ones you’ll have wanted the most. Remember, you might not be able to do everything you’d like to do this year, so choose the things you’ll care about the most.

Be realistic. If you earn $60k per year, paying off $20,000 in credit card bills might not be doable. So maybe your goal is to pay off $10,000 and to finish it off the following year.

Now stretch your goal. If you earn $60k per year and you have no debt, then saving $500 for retirement is good, but I bet you could save a whole lot more! Why not aim for $2000? (In fact, you could probably save $10,000, but if you’ve never done it before, then it’s ok to start a bit smaller and build up later.)

Let’s do this!

Write out your list with your specific number goals and put it someplace where you’ll see it every day. The bathroom mirror or your phone’s home screen are great spots. This is your list of inspiration and focus. 1 year from now, you’ll be thanking yourself for doing this!

Divide your numbers into manageable chunks. Divide by 12 to get a monthly goal, or 52 to get a weekly goal. Maybe divide by 365 and put that amount aside every day.

Put this money someplace separate. Don’t leave it in your checking account where it can easily disappear. Put your Prague travel, debt, retirement, or whatever other dollars into a separate bank account so it will be there 1 year from now when you need it (except for the debt payments, of course, which will be there for your monthly payments.)

Next, figure out how you’ll make it happen. Remember, there are exactly 3 ways to increase your savings and/or pay off debt: increase income, lower expenses, or do both. I prefer both, but do what works for you.

Check out my tips on lowering expenses and consider ways to increase your income. Take a look at out this post on fixing your finances in 5 minutes per day. Then implement these ideas!

Thank yourself

One year from now, be sure to thank yourself! Today-you did a very good thing for next-year-you, and next-year-you must appreciate it!

In one year, as you’re happily exploring the streets of Prague, watching your credit card debt disappear, or whatever else, you can be thankful that today-you took these steps. Then you can again set new goals for the coming year and kick ass even more!

So what will today-you do to make next-year-you happy? Please share in the comments!

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