Values exert a powerful influence on people's lives. They affect career decisions, how your spend your time, and how you handle money. A value is a force within people that strongly directs their life. Each person places his or her own worth on values such as family, job success, health, love, comfort, friendship, skills, social status, and education.
No two people spend their money in exactly the same way. For instance, one person may make sacrifices to have more money for a family vacation. Another might place a high priority on college savings. How you spend your money reflects what you think is important. Because values are personal, one person's spending will differ from that of others.
Goals are specific plans or objectives that people have in life (e.g., to buy a new car or send children to college). Goals grow out of a person's values and will change over time along with interests, income, lifestyle, and personal circumstances. To make a practical budget, first define your financial goals and values.
Some goals are set for the near future or short term. They are the things you want soon - in the next few weeks, months, or in a year. A new coat, repainting the kitchen, living room draperies, a washer or dryer, a color TV, and next year's vacation are just a few examples of immediate or short-term goals.
Other goals may require long-range planning and saving. Often these things are not realized for many years - home ownership, a college education, a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and/or retirement income. Estimated costs for long-term goals will need to be revised from time to time as market conditions and prices change.
Ideally, a financial plan for a household of two or more persons is most effective if everyone has a part in establishing and achieving goals. To get started, download the Financial Goal-Setting Worksheet from the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Money 2000 Web site: www.rce.rutgers.edu/Money2000 (click on Resources). It will help you identify your goals and the amount of money required to achieve them.
After you identify your goals, prioritize them. Setting priorities is important in developing a family spending plan. In the decision-making process, some choices may not completely satisfy everyone. You measure the cost of something, not only by its price tag, but by what you give up by losing the opportunity to do something else with your money. For example, if you have the money for either a down payment on a car or a vacation and you choose the car, you could forego the vacation.
Research indicates that people who take the time to set goals and plan ahead are more successful financially. Like an online travel planning Web site, such as mapquest.com, financial goals provide a "destination" for the future, which can then be used to develop an itinerary (e.g., a savings plan) to get there.