We all need to find inspiration at times.  Something to look forward to. Something that keeps us motivated and driven.  This is vital to living a life worth living. So what do you do if you don’t have any? You discover your goals!

For some, it’s an annual ski trip.  For others, it’s a long weekend at the local beach resort, or buying a car to fix up. You may know what that already is, but you haven’t actually planned for it.  Or, you have no idea and need help to discover your goals in the first place.

Regardless of which you are, these steps will help you to put a process around it and finally get motivated to tighten up that budget.


The very first thing to do, is write them down.  All of them.  This is your epic “brain dump”. I want you to write down at least 10-20 goals.

Start with the obvious things, like a new refrigerator, a new car or college savings.  OK, you’re responsible. Moving on…

Now, I want you to really start thinking of those things you enjoy DOING! Not having, but doing.  These are the goals and experiences that bring you the things that money can’t buy. Think about what gets you excited! Think about what you really have a passion for and what you’re always down for, no matter what’s going on. Some of these may have a cost, some won’t.  It doesn’t matter.  The whole point is to just write them all down.

Write Down Your “Why”

Next, we take it a little deeper.  If you really want to do what it takes to discover your goals and find out what it is that’s most important to you, then we need to know “why”. Why is this something that is worthy of being called, “a goal”?

For each goal, write down why it’s a goal of yours. There are no right or wrong answers here. Start each one with “to”. For example.. “to bring my family closer”, or “to provide an education for my children”.  It could be, “to do something my wife always wanted” or “to keep my husband from bugging me about it”.

Whatever it is, it’s worthy of “goal status”. No one really needs to have a reason as to why a goal is a goal. But when you sit down and reflect on it, you think about it’s importance in the grand scheme of things.

Get Into the Details

Now, I want you to think about what it will be like when you’re realizing your goal.  Take yourself into the moment. Write down the details.  If you’re on vacation, what are you doing? Where are you? Who are you with?  If your on a ski trip, where? And, for how long? For some of the goals, it’s easy… “I have a new refrigerator”. At most, “I can fit so much more in this freezer!”. You can see where this might end up on your priority list in a later step.

There are two reasons for this exercise. First, it will make it easier when estimating the cost. It will uncover some of the details you may not think about otherwise. Secondly, your mind will start thinking more about the result, than the actual goal itself.  This is the good stuff.  That which money can’t buy, as they say. The feelings you get when you’ve realized the goal.


At this stage, you hopefully have a ton of goals, you know why it’s a goal and a relatively clear definition of what the goal entails. Now, we find out what’s most important to you.  It may already be clear at this point, but do it anyway…

Look at the very first goal.  Read what you wrote, and compare it the second goal on your list. I want you to think of only these two. Decide, “if I could only have one, which would it be?” Don’t worry about whether that’s true or not.  Put yourself in a situation where you had to choose.

Got it? OK, now compare that “winner” to the third goal.  Think about it the same way. “If I could only have one, which would it be”? Is it the same one? Or did it change?

Repeat this process through the entire list.  The “last goal standing” is your #1 goal.  The goal that beat out all the others and takes priority over everything else.  How does it feel? On some level, you might feel relieved.  You might feel, well, even more confused because it’s not what you expected. However you feel, put this goal aside and mark it as #1.

Go through this process, comparing the remaining goals, one at a time. Your answers will likely change a little as you go through the list. That’s normal. The next winner will be your #2 goal. You can do this until they are all prioritized, or stop after 3, 5, 10 whatever.  The result, you know a little more about yourself.

Last but not least…

Lastly, for your top 3-5 goals you can start looking into the cost.  Look at the details you wrote down and  come up with the cost.  You’ll want to come up with an “all in” number to build into your budget.

If you need help finding room in your budget, read our post, Easy Way to Budget for Your Goals.

Now, take a break. That was exhausting!


Brad Ruttenberg

Brad Ruttenberg


Sports Fan, Movie Buff, and Anything Outdoors sums it up.  Brad loves spending time with his wife, Ashley, and their two boys.  He helps empower people to take control of their money, bringing them the confidence to build the life of their dreams.

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About Matt & Brad

They are identical twins and money experts.  Matt and Brad Ruttenberg have, combined, over 2 decades of experience as financial planners.  They are known for simplifying money and helping others go from living paycheck to paycheck to thriving financially.

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