“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. – Henry David Thoreau

Recently, Alex Williams at The New York Times peddled the benefits of list making in his Ten Things to Do Before This Article Is Finished. He writes, “Once the province of bird-watchers, mountain climbers and sufferers of obsessive-compulsive disorder, the life list has become widely popular with the harried masses, equal parts motivational self-help and escapist fantasy.”

Life lists are good. A list of financial goals – even better. Why? Achieving these gives you the money and freedom to experience and start checking off what’s on the life list.

How do you get started? First, J.D. at Get Rich Slowly explains the difference between: long-term, intermediate, short-term, and immediate financial goals. He writes, “Many people make poor financial decisions because they don’t have long-term personal goals. If you don’t understand that buying a new cell phone or playing a game of poker takes money from a larger goal – a new home, a new car, a vacation to Europe – then there’s no incentive not to use the money for whatever seems fun at the moment.”

Obviously, “whatever seems fun at the moment” could be an immediate goal, but if it’s not defined, then the immediate goal will always come first. The best way to make sense of short-term and immediate personal finance decisions is to have a clear picture of your long-term and intermediate objectives.

Erin Huffstetler, the Frugal Living guide at About.com explains what a financial goal should look like. A financial goal states:

  • what you plan to accomplish
  • what resources you’ll need to make it happen
  • how much time you’ll need to make it happen
  • how you plan to make your goal fit into your overall budget and life

If you click over to the article, you can print out a copy of the Financial Goals Worksheet to list your goals. (As Dawn reminded us last week, there isn’t any reason to spend money in order to make your list!)

And finally, Trent at the Simple Dollar wrote a series about goal setting earlier this year. Here are links that provide a great how to guide:

So what are you waiting for? New Year’s? Get a jump start before the holidays creep up with its distractions and immediate decisions that can tap you out financially and wreck havoc on your long term goals. And then start checking off the items on that life list!