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Looking to know our a big money goal this year? Learn how NaNoWriMo helped me to focus and make our finances easier to manage!
I can't help thinking about goals this time of year. We still have months to go before 2023 starts, but I like to use this time to reflect on our progress so far.
We can then discuss what we’d like to do over the next year and start setting up the pieces for them.
Over the last several years, we've made some solid progress with our finances together.
One of our earlier goals was getting out of debt by paying off the car and student loans. We then focused on building up our financial cushion and getting more comfortable with investing and discovered FI.
We’ve tried to keep a holistic approach by putting certain expenses into our family budget, including more travel. We’re so grateful to be in this position.
While there are plenty of reasons why we've hit the mark on many of our money goals, I think changing our approach to finances is key.
The funny thing is the inspiration for these changes had nothing to do with spreadsheets and calculators.
It came from counting my words.
NaNoWriMo's Monthly Challenge
One goal that I am extremely proud of was completing the NaNoWriMo a few years ago.
It's a challenge where participants are encouraged to write a novel (defined in the challenge as 50,000 words) in November.
It was a ton of work and there were quite a few times that month that I wanted to quit, but when December 1st came I had a significant portion of a story written down.
Something that had been on my personal wishlist was done and it was on the first try of this challenge.
That got me thinking – what made NaNoWriMo work for me when I've started and stopped writing so often?
With the dust cleared in my mind and the benefit of some hindsight, I think I have an explanation – the monthly challenge took a huge task, gamified it, and made it into a SMART goal.
How to Master Your Money with SMART Goals
I've s talked about SMART goals a few times, but as a refresher, here is a summary of what they are:
- Specific: Choose a specific goal. Don’t say ’save more’, but instead choose ‘put aside 5% of my paycheck into my emergency fund.’
- Measurable: How do you know when you reached your goal? If you are saving an emergency fund up, consider setting aside 3-6 months of living expenses in the account.
- Attainable: Work on a few goals at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed. Be gazelle intense on the ones you have.
- Realistic: Make sure your goal is something you can do and truly believe in. Have a plan of action that you can sustain.
- Time Based: By setting a deadline, you can work backwards and break down the steps into mini goals.
Writing Over 50,000 Words in One Month with NaNoWriMo
There were several factors at play that pushed me towards winning the challenge. The more I looked at it, the more I saw how SMART goal framework worked with NaNoWriMo.
- Specific: I didn't have to write a novel (which is a broad term with varying amounts of pages), I was writing 50,000 words by the end of November.
- Measurable: Every night once I was done with what I wrote, I copy and pasted it onto the word count tool to track my daily and overall progress. It was a simple tool that made it easy to see where I was with reaching my goal.
- Attainable: The big goal was broken down further and each day I worked hard to get my 1,1667 words down on the computer.
- Realistic: I wasn't trying to write a masterpiece. Perfect is the enemy of good – I was simply going to write down 50,000 about the story that was forming in my head.
- Time Based: I had 30 days to get it done if I wanted to win and get the prizes. After that I could do whatever I wanted.
Was I exhausted at the end of the month? Yep, but it felt so good to accomplish something I've wanted to do for years.
Monthly Money Challenges
What does this have to do with finances? Plenty.
If you're looking at mastering your finances this year, doing a monthly challenge for your money goal can be an extremely powerful tool in your arsenal.
Which do you think you'll be able to do better with by the end of this month – “saving more” or “save $5/day in January”?
Having something concrete for a limited amount of time can be very motivating.
While I've found monthly challenges the perfect size to tackle goals like buying a family car, saving $100 or optimizing your bills.
Need ideas? I have four fun monthly money challenges to try out!
Want to increase your chances of success? Make your challenge social – involve your friends, either as fellow participants or as cheerleaders.
So what's your monthly challenge? What do you hope to finish in 30 days?
This article was originally posted January 2014. It has been updated October 2022.