Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Tracking my financial goals has helped me save Dh56,000 in four months

Whenever you make a new commitment, holding yourself accountable will ensure you stick to the plan

Personal finance blogger Zach Holz hopes to put down a deposit on a rental property in the US by May. Photo: Associated Press
Personal finance blogger Zach Holz hopes to put down a deposit on a rental property in the US by May. Photo: Associated Press

Many of us make resolutions at the start of the year, but just as many see those plans fade away as they get swept along in the current of their everyday life.

For a long time, I was determined the only resolution I would make at New Year was to make no resolutions at all. Resolutions felt arbitrary and contrived and I couldn't be bothered. Why even start them, when statistics show that the majority fail by February.

But here's the thing, I still set goals and work every day towards reaching them. The goal I have been most successful at lately has been saving towards my first real-estate investment. The one I'm less successful at is to do more sit-ups and eat healthier.

In September, I decided to save Dh7,500 a month to have enough by May for a down payment on a rental property in the US. To reach this goal, I only spend Dh150 on week days and Dh270 on weekend days, and try to keep within those numbers on as many days as I can. I am now used to this spending level and don't feel deprived. On days I want to splurge and go over that, it's OK, because most days I'm below those numbers.

I've also been lucky over the last few months with my side projects, earning income from consistent gigs with my bands, some photography sessions and writing. Compared to last year, my income is up almost 50 per cent, even though I can't count on the side hustle income staying at that level.

The third reason this has been an easy goal to reach, and surpass, is that I keep myself accountable each month by using the Spending Tracker app (free on iTunes and Google Play). I then write down the information in my personal finance blog, so before I spend money, I have to think twice about it; not only how it will show up in the tracker, but how everyone who reads my blog will be able to mock me.

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The result is that instead of saving the planned Dh30,000 by this stage, I've actually saved over Dh56,000 in just four months. I've almost doubled what I expected through the combination of tracking my progress, a little luck and accountability.

My other goal, of being healthier through more sit-ups and eating more salads, however, has not been as successful. I've set the goal that whenever I start watching a new episode of any show, I'll do a set of sit-ups. I've been able to do this about 10 per cent of the time. But that's a 10 per cent improvement over what I was doing before, so that's a move in the right direction. In terms of eating healthier, I have tried, but I am far too drawn to delicious, unhealthy things in large portion sizes. I haven't tracked my progress for that, but if f I had to guess, I am probably eating 20 per cent healthier than before but around 30 per cent less healthy than I should.

There are larger lessons to be drawn from this tale of two goals. First, set goals that are measurable, and that you measure. Second, getting lucky is awesome. Sometimes that's the difference between reaching your goal and not, so don't get too hard on yourself if you have a stretch of bad luck. Third, hold yourself accountable by telling others about your progress. If you can, find an accountability partner - someone who has a similar goal that you can report in to daily or weekly. It could even be putting it as a Facebook post or tweet.

If you have financial goals like me, joining a personal finance group like SimplyFI.org here in the UAE can help you find a group of like-minded folks who will help keep you on the right track.

So, here's my goals for 2019: a. Keep saving at a strong rate to buy my first property; b; Do a set of sit-ups or push-ups for 50 per cent of the TV episodes I watch and eat at least three salads a week.

What will you do? How will you track it and keep yourself accountable? If you want help, I'm happy to be an accountability partner.

Dubai school teacher Zach Holz documents his journey towards financial independence on his personal finance blog The Happiest Teacher

Updated: January 24, 2019 08:03 PM

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