Not many financial goals that are set have low balances that are easy to achieve quickly. Most goals, unfortunately, aren’t so easily met.

Take a family vacation to Disney World, for example. For a family of four to fly to Orlando, stay in a Disney World Resort hotel, get the meal plan, and visit the parks, the vacation in total could add up to $5,000 easily. If each person is paying their own way, that’s $1,250 one person would have to save up in order to be able to go.

Let’s say you are that person, and you waited until the month before your trip to come up with the money. That would be just a smidge stressful, don’t you think? In order to come up with $1,250 in one month’s time, you would have to subject your finances to a tight squeeze; either you need to empty some of your savings in order to pay or you will have to charge it to a credit card and risk building a high interest rate on the $1,250.

In the 30 days of the month before your trip, you would need to come up with the equivalent of $41.67 a day. Thinking about going out for drinks with friends next weekend? Sorry, you have to make sure to save that money. Want a latte while on your lunch break? Nope, every penny counts and right now, you’re short on pennies.

While this vacation example is only an example, it is a common dilemma most Americans face every day. We can’t make money magically poof out of thin air and into our hands, so we must plan ahead before events like this fictional trip. Or else, we could ruin our finances and spend months or years trying to make up for it.

The easiest way to effectively work towards your financial goals is to take it day by day (and start early). If you know that you will need $1,250 in three months for a vacation (say your parents are paying for everything and expect you to pay them back your share at the end of the three months), start planning today. $1,250 over three months looks a whole lot less scary than $1,250 over less than a month.

If you start saving money ahead of time, figure out the number of days until the money is due. Take the total amount of money you will owe and divide it by the number of days. This will give you an idea of how much per day you need to save.

If you need $1,250 in three months (90 days), you would need to save $13.89 a day as opposed to the $41.67 a day you would need to save if you only gave yourself a month to get the money together. $13.89 a day could be how much you save if you pack your lunch instead of ordering out, two coffees brewed at home instead of at Starbucks, or that extra shirt or pair of pants that you may or may not have a copy of already in your closet.

If you start to look at what you spend every day in terms of how it compares to what you need to save each day for such an event, it will be easier for you to say “no” to the extra coffee or drink out with friends. It will be easier for you to stay focused on saving that amount of money towards your ultimate goal, whatever it may be. It will be a longer process, taking it one day at a time, but it is a stable and reassuring way to achieve your goal.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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