This One Thing Will Make You Save Money and Achieve Your Dreams

This One Thing Will Make You Save Money and Achieve Your Dreams


It is usually the key element missing in our efforts to save money and build wealth.

Do you know what you want out of life? Do you how much you need to get there? If we just have iffy ideas about what we want, then our success will also be iffy.

The Power of Having a Target

I am a big believer in setting goals. It seems so simple, but figuring out what we want is often the hardest part. Believe me, I’ve spent most of my life not really knowing. I knew I loved a lot of things, and I knew I didn’t like a lot of things. But that just meant that I was wandering around dabbling, or running away.

Then I decided to decide. Instead of trying to keep all my options open, I zeroed in on one thing I wanted — to be a successful writer who is paid for her work. Once I wrote down that goal and started telling people about it, things started happening. It was like magic, but the beauty is — it was not magic. Anyone can do it.

I created this chart you see, together with graphic designer Vickie Spindler, to give people a way to concretize their needs, wants, and dreams. I believe that a key to saving and making money is knowing your why.

You can download the Life Goals pdf form (also on my Printables page) and print it out for free.

What Do You Want?

Do you want to get out of debt, move to a bigger house, save money so you aren’t cutting it so close? Do you want to get a master’s degree, stay home with your kids, take a year off and travel?

The act of writing down goals means that we are focused, committed, and brave enough to get our dreams out of our heads and into the real world.

Picture this. You want to run ten miles but you have no map, no pedometer, no finish line. How will you know when you’ve reached your goal? Will you ever reach your goal? Chances are, you’ll get tired or discouraged about halfway there, you’ll stop and look around, maybe get a snack and sit down, and you’ll say, “Well, I guess this is good enough.”

Defining a goal or a specific vision — like your ideal scene in five years —  is essential.

And because success leads to success, we have to take that first step. To be decisive. To find a vision.

Even if your vision is seemingly selfish, says Dani Johnson in her book First Steps to Wealth, a vision is better than no vision.

Get Started, Then if Necessary, Regroup

Sometimes getting on that road will lead you in directions you hadn’t imagined. You may need to stop and refocus. You may need to regain your footing and decide on new goals.

My vision and my first steps into success are leading me into places that I never imagined.

Writing about saving money for TLC’s Parentables — my first paid writing gig — is leading to hosting the Frugal Mama Makeover series for (The series is launching today — see the first video here!)

I’ve gone through growing pains in the past few months, and it’s been an emotional roller coaster. But I am now stepping off the ride, smoothing down my hair, and saying, “Wow, that was scary, but that was fun. Let’s do it again!”

Don’t Worry About Wasted Time

Here’s more food for thought. Everything you have done in your life before now has taught you something.

That truth will become clear when you set your mind to a goal. Because once we focus on a target and start taking action, things start to fall into place.

I realized, for example, that all that time I frittered away during my 20s and 30s was not wasted at all:

  • teaching English in Italy fired up my love of nurturing and guiding,
  • acting in high school made me feel a little more comfortable behind a camera,
  • flirting with a career in social work made me realize that I love helping people,
  • working as a temp secretary reinforced my love of organizing and filling in forms,
  • taking care of my kids full-time taught me a million things, including how to live well on a single salary,
  • studying grad courses in cultural anthropology helped me understand how our society affects the way we behave with money and spending,

and I could go on and on. I’m seeing how it’s all fitting together. It wasn’t all lost time. It wasn’t worth all the guilt and angst I piled upon myself.

Millionaires Have Yearly Family Meetings

People who are successful — very successful with money — are known to sit down at least once a year and talk about finances, according to High Net Worth Linked to How You Manage Your Money (an article I found via Get Rich Slowly).

You’ve probably already heard the statistic that people who write down their goals earn 80% more than people who don’t, which I first read in Buttoned Up‘s fantastic book Pretty Neat.

All the gurus who talk about the basic principles behind success emphasize the law of vision and focus.

Need more evidence? Try it for yourself and see it come true in your own life.

Now You: Your Homework

Here is my homework for you — should you choose to accept it:

Pen in a date night with your honey. Or call a family meeting. Make it fun with candles, music, bon-bons, or a grand finale movie.

Bring my Life Goals chart, or simply a sheet of paper, and start talking about and writing down what is important to you both. Extra credit: rank the goals in order of priority, figure out how much each one will cost, and how you will get there.

List all sorts of goals like sailing off to your dream vacation, taking time off work, changing careers, moving to a new place, starting a home business, rocking your retirement fund, taking care of your children’s education, donating to a cause you believe in, or simply getting control of your finances.

It’s all possible. But only if we decide and focus.

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  • Autumn M.P. March 13, 2012, 12:03 pm

    This post has been saved in my Inbox for the moment I would finally have to devote to reading it. Today was the day and it was worth the wait. You really nailed it – such a simple concept but one that escapes SO many of us. Your journey is fuel to our fire – thank you for sharing and for inspiring us to take control of our own destinies. Looking forward to seeing more of you on the path. x

    • Amy August 2, 2012, 9:38 pm

      Dear Autumn,

      I’m so happy to read your comment. Thank you for your kind words — you have an eloquent way of writing.

      I look forward to hearing more from you too!


  • Vanessa Jubis November 20, 2011, 7:54 pm


    In any case (never mind my comment above. I’m re-doing it now).

    I must say, you never fail to INSPIRE! I love, love, love this post. It sort of reminds me of the fantastic post you wrote about ‘Don’t read this if you want your life to change’ or something along those lines. WOW! That post DID IT for me woman!
    Yes! You are CORRECT about making lists. I took your first advice back then and it worked! It really, really did! I’m still pinching myself about an article I had published with Babble soon after reading your post. I think our worst enemy IS fear. Sometimes I feel that if I write my goals down and share them with the world that I’ll sound desperate or something. I know this is a silly thought but I’m sure you can empathize with this emotion. You are 100% correct in needing to be BRAVE. I love it! I too would like to make money from blogging and the enormous amount of energy I spend tending to, caring for and really thinking about the content that I display and share and write about. My dream is to blog for a parenting publication as well. The focus does ‘pay’ off. There is also the being consistent with ones efforts and work. Right?

    Okay, I’m writing too much, LOL! I love how you inspire, share and keep your readers enthusiastic about whatever it is that we are doing, would like to do or need to do. You. Are. Amazing. Thank you!

    Grateful Mama,

    • Amy November 21, 2011, 10:58 am

      Dear Vanessa,

      Thank you so much for writing this comment again, and more. And please don’t feel that you are writing too much! I was interested in every word.

      You are so right — it’s all about conquering that fear. The fear of failure. Of people thinking that we are not successful (as you say desperate), or needy.

      I think we have to be willing to be VULNERABLE. To expose our innermost dreams. And that requires being brave.

      But the act of exposing ourselves shows that we are committed enough to make it happen. It tells other people what we want — maybe they can help us. It helps keep ourselves on track, because we’ve already sent our goals out into the universe.

      I love how you put your goals out there, right here on this blog:

      You want to make money blogging, you want to write for a parenting publication. These are awesome dreams and totally doable!

      Like you said, it’s also very much about being persistent. Showing up every week, even though we don’t feel like it. Writing, working, staying up late, sacrificing free time, down time, whatever. There is hard work involved, but if we are pursuing dreams, it’s fun work too!

      I’m off to check out your article on Babble — congratulations, Vanessa!


  • Vanessa Jubis November 20, 2011, 7:42 pm

    Hi Amy!

    I wrote a comment the other day but I think it got lost or never worked :(

    • Amy November 21, 2011, 10:50 am

      Hi Vanessa,

      I’m so sorry to hear about this! I get so many spam comments. I think one thing that helps is not putting any links in the comment text.

      Thank you for reposting,

  • The Suburban Minimalist blog November 20, 2011, 2:57 pm

    Dear Amy,

    This is a life-changing post! Life-changing! The idea that once you get clear on what you want, it starts to happen is universally doubted and too-often ignored. But your life is proof that that advice should be taken seriously. “Don’t Read This If You Want Your Life To Stay the Same” is the single most inspiring read to come across my screen in a very long time.

    I’m going to link to this post and “Don’t Read…” tomorrow. I think I’ll post my own dream. I’m inspired by your bravery and your successes (yes, plural!).


    • The Suburban Minimalist blog November 20, 2011, 6:24 pm

      Please ignore the “universally doubted” part. I think that a lot of people hear the idea of getting clear on what you want, think about it for a little while, and then dismiss it because change is so hard!

      But I have no idea what the universal consensus is and certainly no business speaking on its behalf!

      • Amy November 21, 2011, 10:48 am

        No worries, Rayna. I think you bring up a very good point. Change is hard. Even figuring out what we want is hard. Deciding is hard. And of course, being fearless is hard. But it’s just our ego that is scared.

        I realized I needed to stop protecting my fragile ego, and just go for it. So I fail? Oh well. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. Maybe I’ll find another path. Maybe I try again and get it right the next time. But I’ll certainly NEVER know or never have a chance if I don’t give it a shot.

    • Amy November 21, 2011, 10:45 am

      Dear Rayna,

      I’m so so happy that this post meant something to someone. The techniques in it were life-changing to me, and I love that they might help someone else in the same way. Your post that you promised to write — and had the courage to follow through with — is really inspiring.

      I love that you are zeroing in on exactly what you want, and who you are. It’s so important to identify what our blogs are about and who our ideal readers are, which you do so well. I think it’s much more valuable to have a few loyal readers than hordes of readers who don’t really care. You want people who come back, who recommend your content, who comment and share. And who help you become even more successful!

      Go Rayna!

  • Samantha @ Let's Get Digital November 18, 2011, 9:26 pm

    Those are terrific goals! Thank you so much for sharing. I’m inspired to work on my own.

    • Amy November 21, 2011, 10:41 am

      Hi Samantha,

      Yay, I’m so happy you were inspired! I’d love to hear about your goals, and where they take you. Come back and tell us!


  • Vanessa Jubis November 18, 2011, 8:50 pm

    Hi Amy!

    I must say, you never fail to INSPIRE me! Thank you AGAIN for a wonderful post to get my booty in FOCUS. I mean, really, I took your advice when you wrote the post about ‘Don’t read this if you don’t want your life to change’ (or something along those lines) and it was like “poof” things started changing when I ‘wrote’ my goals down. It started with me stepping out of my fear suit and stepping into my brave suit. It’s TRUE, really, really TRUE! (I know, I seem too giddy right now) I can’t help it!! LOL! Seriously, I’ve been trying to gather my ‘next phase’ goals together for some months now, and yes, I got a little discouraged at one point but now THIS has really lifted my spirits. Thank you, again, Amy Suardi (applause!!!). I’m focused now!

    So grateful,
    Vanessa Jubis

    • Amy November 21, 2011, 10:40 am

      Hi Vanessa,

      I’m so sorry that this comment got stuck in the spam folder. I’ve got thousands of spam comments now — ugh!

      I am completely thrilled that the same process is working for you, Vanessa, and I thank you so much for coming back to tell us about it. Your giddiness is palpable — and very welcome!

      It is so much about getting over fear, isn’t it?

      Go Vanessa, go!


  • Jen @ Jen Spends November 18, 2011, 12:00 pm

    I need to do this homework again. I am getting better about understanding my goals, but I definitely need some more direction and focus.

    I’m so happy you’re seeing results from your hard work and perseverance–there’s nothing more satisfying than achieving success on your own terms, and it’s inspiring to others, too.

    • Amy November 18, 2011, 2:19 pm

      Hi Jen,

      Yes, it really can feel like homework, and we need to set the time for it, but even just jotting a few things down on a napkin right now is better than waiting for the perfect moment.

      I think focusing on career can be hard for people who have many interests. We don’t want to close any doors. But life is so changing anyway — like a twisted rope — that in the end all of our talents will probably get used some way or another. The important thing, for me at least, was to get started.

      Take care,

  • Lia November 18, 2011, 10:06 am

    I just started following your blog and will look into your Babble articles. You have a ton of great ideas! I am Brazilian and wrote a book in Portuguese while living there. After moving to the US I realized that I wanted to keep writing but I wanted to try to do it in English! And that is why I also started a blog and hopefully some day I will get paid to write! Congratulations on your successful journey!

    • Amy November 18, 2011, 2:14 pm

      Hi Lia,

      Your blog is fun and helpful and I’m so impressed with your writing! You clearly have a gift, because you write so beautifully in English and it’s not even your mother tongue.

      I love your enthusiasm too. If you really want to write that book, I know you’ll do that too!

      I’m rooting for you!