Not hitting your Money Goals

Not hitting your money goals? Here’s what to do about it. 

by Verve

The short version

  • If you are working towards goals – pay attention to the five signs that you might not be on track to reaching your target. That way, you can pivot your approach to refocus and get back on track. 
  • Out of all the goal-setting frameworks, SMART goals tend to be one of the most effective. But the key to getting the most out of these goals is this: write them down. Those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than those who don’t. 
  • Setting milestones, creating accountability and having a plan for if things get off track will all support you in achieving your goals.

Constantly feeling like your money goals are out of reach? 

Setting goals can be smart, whether you’re saving for a house deposit or want to take the reins of your day-to-day spending. But it’s essential to ensure you’re setting yourself up for success (and not sabotaging your chances along the way).

Let’s look at some common reasons you might struggle to hit your money goals and a stack of practical ways to easily reach your money goals. 

5 signs you might not be on track to hit your money goals

Did you know there are small red flags and warning signs that pop up when you’re not on track to hit your goals? Here are a few signs that can indicate you need to pivot your approach:

  • You’re running out of money before the end of the month and need to dip into your savings to get by
  • You’re lacking motivation and finding it tough to remember what money goals you set for yourself in the first place
  • You feel like you’re missing out on things you love and don’t have the money to spend on activities or important things
  • You avoid checking your bank balance and feel stressed or anxious when opening up your banking app
  • You don’t feel excited about the money goals you’re working towards and can only see the immediate sacrifices you need to make

What factors could be stopping you from reaching your money goals?

Now we’ve covered some red flags to watch out for, let’s dig a little deeper and understand what issues might be stopping you from hitting your goals. 

First up, you need to ensure your goals are realistic. It’s hard to make progress towards goals that are impossible to reach. Research has shown that making small progressive shifts in our behaviour is one of the best ways to foster good money habits (and hit our goals).

That means you need to consider the timeframes you’re setting for your goals and the actions you need to take to reach these milestones. 

Next, another common pitfall is not breaking down big-picture goals into smaller, short-term steps. Without a clear game plan for what you’re going to do to get to your long-term goal, it will be hard to stay focused, motivated and on track. 

Plus, not linking your money goals to what you value and what’s important to you can make it tough to stick it out when you face challenges. If a money goal feels vague, restrictive and difficult, it can lead you to a ‘scarcity mindset’ of negative thoughts. If you don’t know why you’re saving money or changing your habits, it will be hard to stick to it for weeks and months to come. 

How to refocus and reach your money goals 

The good news? You can turn things around with a few actionable steps to help you refocus on your money goals and get back on track. 

1. Figure out what didn’t go to plan

The first step is to identify the factors keeping you from hitting your goals. Maybe you’ve underestimated your monthly spending, encountered a hefty surprise bill, or set expectations too high.

Take some time to review the roadblocks you’ve faced and what specific factors caused you to fall short of your goal. Rather than seeing these challenges are ‘failures’, you can reframe these experiences into learning opportunities to help you hit your money goals moving forward.

2. Try the SMART goal-setting framework

Out of all the goal-setting frameworks, SMART goals tend to be one of the most effective. But the key to getting the most out of these goals is this: write them down. 

Here’s why: one study found 76% of participants who wrote down their SMART goals achieved them, which is 33% higher than those who didn’t put pen to paper.

Wonder how the SMART framework works? Let’s take Jesse as an example: she’s saving to buy a house and is setting goals to keep her on track to save up a deposit.

SMART ElementActionable TipsExample
SpecificNarrow down the scope of your goalTo save a 20% deposit for her first apartment 
MeasurablePut a number and timeframe on the goal you’re working towards Jesse will save $2,500 per month to reach her deposit target of $120,000 within 3 years
AttainableOutline the small, actionable steps you’ll take to reach your goalJesse will automate her savings to match her pay cycle, cancel her AfterPay account and will commit to eating in at least 5 nights per week
RelevantLink this goal to a real-world outcome or something that’s important to youJesse wants housing security and to put her money into a secure asset (like property) 
Time-boundPut specific timestamps on your goal to track your progressWithin 1 year, Jesse will have saved $40,000 towards her first home deposit 

3. Break down big goals into smaller steps

Here’s the thing about goals: they can feel hard to reach if you’re only thinking about the endpoint. 

But what if you had a clear series of smaller steps to take first that could get you there? This is the secret sauce to goal-setting, and the research backs it up. 
Studies have shown that the best way to unlock motivation early into our journey is to give ourselves a few ‘quick wins’ or small goals that are easy to hit. From there, we build momentum to keep us going all the way through to the end.

4. Schedule frequent check-ins to track your progress

Accountability is key here. The more you check in with your progress, the sooner you can spot any hiccups and make proactive adjustments. 

Our tip? Once you set a money goal, pop a monthly progress check into your diary. Track your progress, review what’s working and make changes if things aren’t going to plan. 

Plus, celebrate your wins along the way to keep yourself motivated.

5. Future-proof your goals by preparing for the unexpected 

Here’s the thing: last-minute expenses are a part of life. While you don’t have a crystal ball that can predict the future, you can put safeguards in place to make these unexpected bills more manageable. 

Give yourself the financial safety net to navigate emergencies, big expenses and unexpected hurdles with an emergency. Our tip? Try to have three months of expenses saved up so you can navigate periods without income or higher expenses with confidence. 

Plus, remember setbacks don’t need to mean going back to square one. Be kind to yourself when things don’t go to plan, look for solutions and take action to get things back on track. 

Money goals should be a tool for you to live your best life, not a reason to limit yourself. By setting SMART goals, frequently checking in on your progress and preparing for the unexpected, you can make it easier to set and hit your money goals.

This article is published by Verve Money Pty Ltd (ABN 71 653 669 366, AFS Representative No. 001294184), a Corporate Authorised Representative of True Oak Investments Ltd (ABN 81 002 558 956; AFSL 238184), as the Manager of Verve Money. A friendly reminder that all the financial information contained in this article is general in nature and does not take into account your personal financial objectives, situation or needs. It’s important to do your own research and consider getting in touch with a professional adviser to access specific information tailored to your unique situation.

You should read the Product Disclosure Statement, Investment Guide, Target Market Determination and Financial Services Guide before making a decision to acquire, hold, or continue to hold, an interest in the Verve Money Fund. Visit to view these documents.

Interests in the Verve Money Fund (ARSN 662 622 899) are issued by Melbourne Securities Corporation Limited (ACN 160 326 545, AFSL 428289). When considering financial returns, return of capital is not guaranteed and past performance is not indicative of future performance.

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