7 tips for setting better financial goals — and successfully chasing them

With January marking both the start of a new year and the national observance of Financial Wellness Month, it’s a great time to prioritize your financial well-being. And of course, this often means putting into place and implementing any money-related goals needed to set yourself up for financial success in the coming year — and beyond.

Not only can setting long-term financial goals help you be more mindful about your spending and more purposeful about putting money away, it can also put you in a much better position to achieve major money-related objectives such as buying a home, financing a comfortable retirement, paying for your own or a child’s higher education, and more.

7 tips for setting — and achieving — your financial goals

In most cases, though, simply setting lofty money-related goals isn’t enough to make them happen. It’s important to set actionable goals that are a fit with your financial reality and to implement definitive steps toward achieving them.

To start taking meaningful steps toward achieving your biggest financial dreams in the coming year, consider these seven tips on how to set financial goals and keep your progress toward achieving them on track:

  1. Be realistic — A common pitfall when making New Year’s resolutions (financial or otherwise) is aiming too high. And of course, setting unrealistic goals is typically a recipe for disappointment. So, to increase your likelihood of success, strive to set attainable goals that realistically align with your current financial situation and your past savings successes. When laying out your financial objectives for the year, carefully consider how long each will likely take to achieve, how big a sacrifice each will require and whether incorporating the steps needed to achieve each goal can reasonably be incorporated into your day-in, day-out financial habits. By setting goals that you can actually accomplish, you can maintain your motivation to keep pursuing them — and pursue loftier goals once you’ve checked your current objectives off the list. It’s OK, and often even desirable, to start small and step up your goals as you achieve the easier ones.
  2. Stay S.M.A.R.T. — By following the “S.M.A.R.T.” formula when setting your money-related goals, you can better ensure that they’re a fit with your financial situation and resources. For example, if your goal is to save more money, aim to set an objective that is:
    – Specific: For example, “I’d like to set aside $6,000 this year.”
    – Measurable: By, for example, putting the funds you’re setting aside into a savings account, you can easily track your progress and see how much farther you have to go to reach your goal.
    – Action-oriented: Consider the smaller steps you’ll need to take to achieve the goal and whether you’ll have the drive and willpower to make them happen. For instance, the $6,000 annual savings goal mentioned above would require setting aside an average of $500 a month, or $125 a week. Is this an amount you can resolve to maintain over the course of the year?
    – Realistic: While your goals can be ambitious and challenging, they should be limited to ones you know you can realistically accomplish with the financial resources you have available to you.
    – Time-bound: By setting a deadline for your goal, you can better hold yourself accountable for taking the steps needed to achieve it. And if you realize along the way that you’re not on pace to meet your timeline, you can make strategic adjustments as needed.
  3. Put priorities in place, and proceed strategically — Whatever your financial goals may be, maintaining your financial well-being should always be a top priority. For most of us, this means ensuring that we’re paying off all of our bills and debts in a timely manner, making sure we’ve got an emergency fund at the ready so we’re prepared should unexpected expenses arise, and otherwise building and maintaining good credit. It can also involve making strategic financial decisions such as paying off high-interest debts like those carried on credit cards before devoting our funds to other objectives.
  4. Build a budget with an eye toward achieving your goals — Once you’ve determined your top financial goals, creating and sticking to a household budget is one of the best ways to increase your likelihood of achieving them. (For helpful tips on how to build and maintain a household budget, check out the Arthur State Bank blog article titled “9 Steps to Creating a Personal Budget.”) A detailed budget can help you assess whether your financial goals are feasible and help you avoid overspending — which can go a long way toward freeing up the funds needed to attain your money-related goals.
  5. Make sure any changes you implement are manageable — When planning and budgeting with your financial goals in mind, you may be tempted to make big financial changes in an effort to reach your objectives more quickly. But making drastic changes to your spending habits and/or lifestyle can set you up for failure, which can ultimately cause you to lose your motivation to keep pursuing your goals. Try to focus on implementing changes that will be manageable, allowing yourself small luxuries from time to time and targeting cutbacks on things you feel confident you can live without. These can include such moves as canceling seldom-used streaming services or reducing the frequency of your visits to the coffee shop. In most cases, taking small steps toward achieving larger financial goals will increase your likelihood of making any changes you put in place stick.
  6. Accept that setbacks will arise — Life is unpredictable, and it often brings unavoidable expenses that you simply hadn’t expected or factored into your budget … and that can have big impacts on your savings plans. Whether it’s an unexpected auto repair, unanticipated home repairs or an unplanned trip to deal with a family emergency, it’s important to accept that these things happen from time to time. Try to avoid letting the expenses (and their impacts on your savings goals) get you down too much. Even in the wake of setbacks, stay focused on achieving your long-term financial goals — and be sure to celebrate your successes as you achieve milestones along the way.
  7. Revisit, reassess and revise your goals regularly — As time passes, your financial situation is sure to evolve. And sometimes, life changes and other factors can have huge impacts on your financial goals and capabilities, making it critical to revisit and reassess them from time to time. Especially in the wake of major life changes such as a promotion or other career-related change, a home relocation, a change in marital status, or the birth of a child, be sure to adjust your financial goals and plans accordingly. And even when life’s changes are less substantial, be sure to regularly evaluate the progress you’ve made, the priorities you’ve set and the tactics you’ve put in place to reach your goals. In most cases, it’s good to revisit and revise your goals and plans at least once a year.


Proudly serving South Carolina since 1933, Arthur State Bank offers accounts and services to meet a variety of financial needs. To help you achieve all your financial goals, the bank offers in-person service as well as a range of convenient digital solutions. To learn how Arthur State Bank can help you with banking needs ranging from checking and savings to retirement accounts, mortgages, other personal loans and more, visit arthurstatebank.com.

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Man doing his banking online

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only source for free credit reports authorized by the federal government. Every 12 months, you can get a free copy of your credit report from each agency.

Your credit report has your credit history for all of your credit accounts as well as any credit inquiries and public record court information such as collections. In addition, the report provides personally identifiable information such as your name, address, and employment.

Be sure to carefully review all three reports to identify any problem areas that you may need to clean up prior to applying for a mortgage. If there is any incorrect information, follow the reporting agency’s rules to correct it or add a notation to the report to explain the situation.

Your FICO Score is a score combines data from several areas include payment history, the amount owed, length of credit history, new accounts. Many lenders use this score as a guide. This score is not provided as part of the free annual credit report.

Learn more about how your credit score impacts your ability to secure a loan.


Couple looking over finances

Primary considerations for setting your housing budget require an assessment of your income, debt and current savings for the down payment on the home. The following are generally recommended guidelines; however, you should meet with an Arthur State Bank lender to get personalized mortgage information.


Couple meeting with lender

The pre-qualification/pre-approval letter is included with any offer you make on a house to inform the seller that you have met with a mortgage lender and you are prepared to make an offer. The letter states that based on certain assumptions, the bank is prepared to lend you up to a specified amount of money for a home mortgage.

When choosing a loan officer, we recommend going local to work with someone who understands your community’s real estate market. This blog on first-time home purchases includes questions to ask your lender that may be helpful when preparing for your meeting.

Helpful Resources:


Realtor shaking hands with a client

When a house is sold, the seller typically pays real estate commission to both the listing agent and the selling agent. It is extremely beneficial for the buyer to use their own real estate agent. Loan officers can often recommend selling agents in the area; ask your officer about realtor referrals when discussing your loan.

A good realtor will know the local market and can help you find an ideal home based on your budget, location and desired features. During your search, understand that you will most likely need to compromise on some items, so it’s important to identify your critical needs versus your wants.


Couple searching online for a home

Additionally, when you start with the house search and work backwards, homes can often go off the market while you’re completing steps 1-4. While browsing homes immediately can be tempting, we recommend following these steps in order so that, once you find your dream home, you’ll be well-positioned to take action immediately.

When you find the home you want and you think you are ready to put an offer on it, you will want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a solid offer.

  • Evaluate the neighborhood.
  • Drive by the house at different times of the day.
  • Examine how other houses in the neighborhood are maintained.
  • Consider any potential traffic or other disruptive noise.
  • Is there ample parking for you and visitors?
  • Read the details in any Homeowner Association agreements (HOA fees and rules).

Make sure to do a preliminary check of house details:

  • Check the water:
  • Does it have good pressure?
  • How long does it take to get the water hot?
  • Is it well water or city water?
  • Turn light switches on and off.
  • Open and close doors and windows to make sure they work properly.
  • Review previous utility bill expenses.
  • Consider the property tax bill.


Family meeting with realtor at new house

When writing an offer contract, be sure to pay attention to all of the details.

Offer Price:

Your agent should do a market analysis that pulls data on recently sold comparable houses. The best comparisons will come from the same neighborhood.

If you are asking for the seller to pay some of the closing costs, remember that this cost plus the sales commission determines the net amount you are offering the seller for the house.

Work with your agent on your negotiation strategy. There are many things to consider, such as how badly you want this particular house, whether it is a buyer’s or seller’s market and an assessment of the seller’s motivation to get the property sold.

There isn’t one best strategy.

Be sure to document in writing everything you want included with the house, such as appliances, etc. Your agent should guide you through the contract step-by-step.


  • Home inspection.
  • Mortgage.
  • Final walk through (24 hours prior to closing).

Proposed closing date. Typically, this is 30-45 days from an accepted offer.

A good-faith deposit is required for the offer. This is typically between 1-10% of the purchase price of the house. The deposit is kept in escrow until closing and the money is applied to the purchase price of the house at closing. If the house does not close due to one of the contingency clauses, the buyer receives their money back. However, if the buyer decides not to close on the property, the seller may get the deposit money.

Attach your pre-approval letter to the offer.


Two people in professional meeting

The clock starts ticking for everything documented in the contract, including mortgage application, inspections and closing date.


Woman advising other woman on mortgage application

You will need to decide which mortgage to select prior to the application.

Plan for the following potential fees:

  • Application fee (many banks and mortgage companies charge an application fee; however, there is not an application fee at Arthur State Bank).
  • Credit check.
  • Appraisal (may be paid at closing).
  • Loan origination fee (paid at closing).

Once you have approval for your loan, make sure you don’t change anything that will impact the status of your mortgage. Banks do a final check on credit and jobs just prior to closing, so now is not the time to change jobs or make another purchase on credit such as a car or furniture.


Home inspector going over findings with home owner

Depending on the size of the house, an inspection can cost on average between $300 to $1000.

Many real estate contracts specify how problems uncovered in the inspection will be resolved, up to a certain dollar amount. Should necessary repairs exceed that amount, the buyer has the option to cancel the contract without penalty and receive their deposit money back. Another option is for the buyer and seller to renegotiate who will pay for additional repairs.


Woman happily holding keys to her new home
  • Homeowner’s insurance is required by the lender prior to closing on the loan.
  • Turn on utilities in your name, effective the closing date.
  • Change your address with the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Make moving arrangements.

Three days prior to closing:

  • You should receive your final Closing Disclosure from the closing agency. The final Closing Disclosure shows a column for the seller and a column for the buyer. All closing charges and credits for both the seller and the buyer are documented in the closing statement.
  • Review the closing statement for accuracy prior to coming to closing.
  • The final amount in the buyer’s column shows you the amount of money you need to pay at closing.

The closing office will provide specific payment instructions. Closing funds have become recent targets for cybercriminals. If you are asked to use a wire transfer, call the office and ask to speak to someone you have been working with to double-check the instructions.

Closing day:

In South Carolina, the closing will usually take place at the attorney’s office. Everyone signing for the mortgage must be present to sign the closing paperwork. Make sure you bring the following:

  • Cashier’s check or proof of payment for wire transfer.
  • Driver’s license.
  • Checkbook, just in case there are any additional items that were not on the closing statement.

Be sure to understand this information:

  • How and when you will pay:
  • Your mortgage.
  • Your property taxes.
  • Your homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any HOA dues.
  • Who to call with any questions.

The best practice is to go through the homebuyer’s roadmap in this sequence. However, if you jumped ahead early in your journey, just circle back to address the steps you missed.

Arthur State Bank’s loan officers are closely tapped into local real estate markets and experts at helping clients get what they need on terms that work for them. We also offer mortgage specials for first-time homebuyers.

To start planning your journey to your dream home, try out our mortgage calculator. If you’re ready to talk to a loan officer, contact Arthur State Bank to request personalized mortgage information today. Don’t forget to ask about our first-time homebuyer offer.