How to Set Savings Goals That Are Bulletproof

By Cat Alford
April 10, 2017

Do you want to own your own home someday? Travel the world? Donate to charity? Buy a fabulous designer bag?

Goals like this are great to have, but it’s important to make sure they’re bulletproof. In other words, it’s better to have goals that you can actually achieve. The best way to do this is to follow a specific goal-setting strategy. Perhaps the most well-known strategy is the SMART goal strategy, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

Read on to learn how the SMART acronym can be applied to your savings goals.


I am not the type of person that can have one savings account with a lump sum in it for a variety of different goals. I learned a long time ago that if I want to save for something, I have to be very specific about it. For this reason, I have three separate savings accounts right now. They include accounts for my self-employment taxes, Christmas gifts, and a violin for my husband.


Measurable goals are motivating and meaningful. They have a purpose, a reason for existing. A measurable goal, for example, is the feeling of accomplishment you get when you reach your savings goal or the positive impact saving money has on your family,

As an example, my friend just completed a savings account for her wedding. She and her fiance had been putting money in a wedding fund for months and they recently hit their goal of $15,000 for their big day. Having that savings account was incredibly motivating and meaningful. It allowed my friend and her future husband to save for something big. And, the fact that the savings account existed at all helped her prioritize her financial goals instead of needlessly spending money.


I believe that we can do just about anything we set our minds to over time. But, when it comes to creating specific and measurable savings goals, they have to be achievable. For example, I can say I want to save a million dollars this year, but it’s just not going to happen. It’s not achievable in such a short of a time frame.

When it comes to savings, it’s better to set smaller, bite-sized goals like saving for a weekend getaway or to buy your textbooks next semester. You can dream big day and night, but if you really want to have a foolproof way to accomplish your savings goals, the ones you pick have to be achievable.


When it comes to your savings goals, it’s important to think about their relevance to your life, your development, and your worth as a person. The relevance portion of the SMART acronym is the part where you ask yourself, “Why?”

Why are you saving for this specific goal? Why do you want to achieve this? Why will it enrich your life? Why will it make you a better person? Why is it so important right now?

It’s not enough to say that you want to save for a Caribbean vacation because you love the sunshine. It’s better to frame it in terms of its relevance to your mental health. Perhaps you want to save for a Caribbean vacation to recharge, turn off your cell phone, and take a week-long departure from your stressful job so you can return rejuvenated.

Thinking about relevance when it comes to your goals forces you to consider the bigger picture and not worry about surface level concerns.

Time Bound

If setting goals were only the first four adjectives on this list then it would be relatively easy to set them. After all, we can all say we want to save for retirement or save for our children’s college education, right? Yet, these aspirations mean nothing if there’s no set time limit to achieving them.

For example, my twins will start college in 15 years. I can set a specific goal to fully fund both of their college educations. This goal is extremely relevant to their well-being because, if they graduate debt free, they can achieve wealth sooner. We all know that college is expensive. Yet, with solid planning and saving, it’s not unrealistic for me to set the bar high and make a concerted effort to save $150,000 for each of them – $300,000 total – by the time they start college. This goal is now time bound. This lets me break it down and set up a plan to save a specific amount for them each month of every year until they start school.

Ready to start saving SMART?

As you can see, setting SMART goals mean more than having random goals to save money. They give you a roadmap to sit down, plan, and understand why you want to achieve particular goals and how you will get there in a specific time frame. If you do this, your savings goals can be bulletproof, and you’ll be on your way to achieving some of the biggest dreams of your life.

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