4 steps to find happiness today while saving for tomorrow

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Goals that come with a big price tag (think: home renovation or a big trip) are great but if they’re getting in the way of the small things that make you happy, it’s time to reassess. Because saving for those bigger goals doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your happiness along the way. It means taking a little more time to slow down, breathe … and enjoy cost-free moments that matter (and ladder up to your goals). Follow these four easy steps:

1. List three activities that bring you happiness but don’t cost much (or anything!)

Too often people are sidetracked by the latest and greatest must-haves or must-dos, but everything you enjoy doesn't have to be costly. Whatever these low-cost or no-cost pastimes are, write them down. Game nights at home with family and friends? Volunteering? Taking a walk in the park? Since you're bound to have more than three, pick the ones that mean the most.

2. List three goals that will cost money

Maybe you want re-do your living room or go on a rock climbing adventure; whatever the goal, don't put limits on yourself. The point is to get your aspirations onto a list—to put them in perspective and make a plan of action to reach them.

3. Now, compare the themes in the two lists

If your lists have some crossover (like game night with family and friends, and updating your living room), good news! You are closer to reaching that goal than you might have thought. When the low-cost activities that bring you happiness and your larger goals have a common theme (entertaining), you’re able to save for that goal while still enjoying the present moments. If you aren’t seeing an overlap, don't sweat it. Gaps are to be expected, and you can address those in the next step.

4. Identify one additional thing that’ll get you to your goal and bring you happiness

For those items on your lists that don't have a common thread, why not use one to get to the other? For example, if your goal requires some savings, then consider doing your favorite free activity more often. (Sign up for extra volunteer hours versus going to the movies, for example.) Then put the money you'd have otherwise spent during that time into a dedicated account toward that big goal.

This content is educational in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.