How You Can Hold Yourself Accountable and Stick to Your Financial Goals

Updated: November 8, 2023

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The basics of money management are not rocket science — set a budget, make more than you spend, have a savings account, pay off your debt and plan for the future. However, your outlook plays a significant role in bringing your financial goals to fruition. Popular radio host and author of The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, Dave Ramsey believes that financial success is 20 percent financial knowledge and 80 percent behavior. I concur.

While the concepts behind money management and financial goal setting are straightforward, putting them into practice can be difficult. Often, we don’t know where to start when reducing monthly spending and saving more. I recommend asking yourself first, “What do I want to achieve with my finances?”

For some people, the answer is easy. They know the shape of their finances and want to concentrate on saving up for a down payment on a home or paying off student loans or credit cards. Others don’t know their financial reality. Chances are they haven’t opened bills or credit card statements in a long time and aren’t aware of their loan balances, interest rates or credit score. Regardless of your style, it’s never too late to gain control of your finances and start saving or investing.

An illustration of a young woman writing in a notebook ways to save and invest.

There are three financial mindset strategies you can implement today to hold yourself accountable, regain financial stability and strengthen your resolve.

Choose a self-care practice.

Set aside at least five minutes a day for stillness, breathwork, meditation, prayer or yoga. Then record your activity in an app or journal to keep track of your progress. Cultivating mindfulness, positive thinking, and mental clarity can give you a greater sense of focus — which can help you bolster your bank account. Self-care includes proper sleep, nutrition and exercise to foster your emotional and physical resilience.

Create an action plan.

Set aside 30 minutes to create an action plan for your financial well-being. Start by writing down three to five goals and then rank them in order of importance. Make sure they are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals. For example, “Invest $5,000 in my retirement fund this year,” versus “Save a gazillion dollars before I am ninety-nine.” Your action plan should include goals for how to start saving money immediately.

Break down your goals.

By breaking down your goals into smaller objectives or tasks, you will gain momentum and motivation to keep going. Staying mindful of your baby steps will also help keep your long-term goals within sight. When you have a small victory, celebrate the milestone by treating yourself. Just like a healthy diet allows for the occasional ‘cheat day’ to keep you satisfied and sticking to the overall plan, it’s okay to take a break once in a while and reflect on your accomplishments.

Long-term financial goals take some time to achieve, so be patient with yourself. You might be surprised at how you can have a greater sense of accountability by living on a lower income or simply taking a deeper breath.

An illustration of a young woman showing her friend her money goals and her friend is reviewing and supporting her to hold her accountable.

6 Ways to Stay Accountable with Money

Have you ever had a goal and kept it to yourself? It’s a lot easier to let go of your goals if you never share them with others. Having a sense of financial accountability keeps you responsible to yourself. In addition to the daily strategies mentioned above, there are multiple practices you can incorporate into your life over the long term to help you work toward achieving financial freedom.

1. Live With Financial Intention

An intention is a way of being or living that supports the likelihood of your goals coming to fruition. Write three to five short and positive mantras that support you in achieving your desires. For example, “I am a financially responsible person who makes good decisions,” or “I make saving a priority because I care about myself,” or “I achieve my financial goals.” Consider reviewing or reciting your mantras before daily morning or nighttime meditations. The more you repeat them, the more likely they are to come true. In addition to your daily mantras, set one financial intention every day to spur you forward. For example, “I will spend wisely,” “I will attract new business,” or “I will research investment options.”

2. Visualize Financial Success

Visualizing a positive outcome has long been utilized in sports psychology — if you can envision yourself making the goal, you are more likely to do it. Many neuroscientists have also found that visualization helps the body respond better to the pursuit of desired outcomes, including health goals.3 With your eyes closed, pretend you have already achieved your financial goals. You are worth the action needed to achieve this feeling of positivity.

3. Take the Long View

Before you make any financial decisions, including purchasing a home or accepting a new job offer, ask yourself if the choice will bring you closer or further away from your long-term financial goals. Check in with your body and notice how you feel about bigger choices. Then, use mindful awareness to make sure you are acting conscientiously and spending within your budget.

4. Create a Support System

Many people ask, “What does it mean to be held accountable?” While your Inner Saboteur may always have a seat on your mental board of advisors, you can reduce its voting power by inviting an Inner Dream Team of supporters to the table. A strong support network can keep you accountable. If you are single, consider getting an accountability partner. Find a friend who might also be working on their financial health and set up regular check-ins to talk about your financial goals. Alternatively, seek out a financial advisor, financial planner, debt consolidation counselor or another type of consultant. Having an advisor is like having a personal trainer or coach who can motivate and educate you toward financial freedom.

5. Get Empowered

It’s easy to blame others for your financial situation. Keep in mind that everything you do is based on the choices you make. It's not your parents, past relationships, job, the economy, weather, a recent argument or your age. Feel empowered by taking the reins of your life and accepting responsibility for your actions. By learning how to not blame others, your financial health will begin to transform and flourish.

6. School Up

If you are serious about improving your financial health, consider taking financial classes to improve your knowledge. If you are struggling with low earnings, compulsive spending or debt accumulation, consider a free, anonymous program, such as Debtors Anonymous, Underearners Anonymous andSpenders Anonymous. Many such programs provide support for financial challenges.

Keep the Momentum Going

No matter what financial traumas you’ve encountered in the past, financial stability can happen. Don’t give up on your goals. As you learn to accept your past and conquer self-sabotage, you’ll build your mental wealth — which can go a long way toward building your financial wealth. Be patient, too. A wise Chinese proverb says, “The temptation to quit will be greatest just before you are about to succeed.” Keep going!

For more guidance and resources, consider undertaking the mental health and financial health program in my book, The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life.

About Joyce Marter

Joyce Marter headshot

Joyce Marter has been a licensed psychotherapist for over 20 years and is an expert in mental health, mindfulness, emotional intelligence and the psychology of money. Marter is the Founder of Urban Balance, a counseling practice that currently has over 175 therapists working from nearly 20 locations in six states.

Marter is an adjunct faculty at The Family Institute at Northwestern University, a member of the National Speakers Association and is a national keynote speaker.

Joyce is routinely consulted as a counseling expert in the media, featured in such outlets as The Wall Street Journal, CNN and MTV. Her book, The Financial Mindset Fix: A Mental Fitness Program for an Abundant Life, will be published by Sounds True and in bookstores in July.