Whether you are just starting out or in the thick of it, your savings journey is a lot like running a marathon: it's a long trek and success takes sacrifice, encouragement, and determination. You have to fix your eyes on the final goal and will yourself to continue moving forward.
To keep moving mile after mile, runners often visualize the finish line or imagine the cheers of family and friends. And the same technique can apply to your savings goals: visualizing where you want to be can help you get through the day-to-day struggles of budgeting and saving.
One of the best ways to really "see" a financial goal is to create a vision board, a collage of pictures, text, and other imagery that represent your life goals and aspirations.
Read on to learn how you can create your own vision board that will define your goals and motivate you to reach them
What is a vision board?
When it comes to visualizing your future, you aren’t limited to pictures. Though you can opt for a collage on a bulletin board or poster, more and more people are creating virtual vision boards to compile inspiration. The upside of trading the analog version for virtual, is that your inspiration is always within arm's reach of your smart phone.
And proximity can be important! The value of a vision board is its use as a tool to remind you of your goals, so that you can stick to your budget and resist the temptation to splurge.
Research specific goals
The first step to making your vision board is researching your goal. If you're trying to save for a new house, get specific. Do you want a condo or townhome? A single-family residence or a multi-family unit? A little cabin? A sprawling farmhouse with room for kids and guests?
Once you have an idea of what you want, drill down further. Should it be brick or stone, vinyl siding or wood? How much square footage? How many bedrooms and bathrooms?
Search books, magazines, and the internet for inspiration: when you come across a home you like, bookmark the website or Pinterest board where you found it, or take a screenshot on your phone. This is your chance to really understand your options and make comparisons.
And of course, while you're looking, you'll need to research the pros and cons of each option. How much will your ideal home really cost? How much will you need for a down payment? What credit score will you need to get the best mortgage rate possible? In short, your research should help you start to think realistically about what it takes to meet your goal — from costs to timelines.
I put a picture of a Victorian house on a wall above my desk, so whenever I looked up, it was right in front of me. I wound up buying a house exactly like it 10 years later!
Creating your board
Once you have all your details down, you can start making your vision board. It can take a lot of forms — a photo of your dream home in your wallet, a physical board posted where you'll see it every day, a printout of key images that you post on your fridge. The key is that it should always be available to you, ready to inspire you and keep you on track.
New York-based Certified Financial Planner Cary Carbonaro used a vision board to inspire herself when she was saving to buy a home in the early 2000s. "I put a picture of a Victorian house on a wall above my desk, so whenever I looked up, it was right in front of me, "she recalls. It was a distinctive home — a 3-story house with turrets and gables.
"I wound up buying a house exactly like it ten years later," she says. "I didn't even realize it until I found the vision board years later." Carbonaro still lives in that much-desired home, in Long Island's Huntington Village.
Track your goal
Now that you've set your goal and outlined a plan for getting there, the last step is tracking your progress. There are a lot of ways to do that — for example, you can use an app or spreadsheet to record your spending or build a physical representation like a giant thermometer to measure your growing savings. Regardless, the key to success is to find a way to follow your progress and stay motivated to keep moving forward.
Ultimately, you're trying to visualize every detail of your goal and your journey toward it, like a marathon runner imagining the feeling of crossing the finish line and the sound of cheering loved ones. Over time, as these details become more real, it will be easier to stay focused on them — and resist the urge to spend your money and time on things that will take you further from your dreams. In the end, your savings success will depend on how well you can inspire and motivate yourself to win the savings race!