Smart Goals with Savings Art

Most folks find it easier to attain that Dave Ramsey style gazelle intensity when they are paying off debt. Sometimes after we hit the big goal of becoming debt free, our motivation and focus sputters as we transition into the vague world of saving.

I was so inspired by Derek’s post on Debt Art that I decided to create some Saving’s art. As we are in this transitional year of sabbatical, my saving focus has lacked purpose. Mostly because I don’t really know what is next for us. I decided that it’s ok to not know.

We can still save for the possibilities.

How my Savings Art works:


I set a goal to save $100,000. My saving art will keep me focused.

Each flower represents a different amount saved. $500, $1000, $2000 or $3000 which are amounts I typically invest at once. Use whatever numbers fit your situation. I made a chart, in case I forget. Once I invest that amount I trace the flower with glitter glue. You could use a highlighter or marker to show it is accomplished.

So each of my pictures represent $25,000 of savings.

It is subtle enough that I don’t mind it hanging in my house where others might see it. Which helps make sure I look at it every day. I wrote words in the middle to focus on what our long term goal for that money might be.


Smart goals website has this great flexible definition for SMART goals. These are perfect for our Saving Art!

S – specific, significant, stretching

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

Here is how we can apply these same ideas to our Saving Art.

S – specific, significant, stretching

Pick a specific amount you want to save. If you have a specific goal, even better. Make sure it’s significant to you. $5000 wouldn’t seem like a game changer to us, but $100k definitely is. And I think it should be a number that stretches you a bit. $100k actually feels enormous. Not impossible, but it will take a lot of creativity to get there.

M – measurable, meaningful, motivational

This is everything that encompasses Saving Art! Each item (pick whatever item you want) will represent a specific dollar amount. On each picture we added one word that is meaningful to our family because it aligns with our values. Our Savings Art pictures have already provided a huge amount of motivation. I’m excited to see the flowers earn their sparkle as I color them in one by one!

A – agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

Mr. Mt talked about this for a few weeks. It will be a stretch and it might take 10 years, but we can get there. It is very action-oriented for us. I know exactly what I need to do start making this happen.

R – realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

It is pushing the bounds of realistic and reasonable. But it’s extremely results-oriented, I will be able to see exactly how far we have to go and the progress we have made. That alone is very rewarding. Having the flexibility that an extra $100,000 provides will be amazing!

T – time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

We don’t have a time frame yet, but our progress is trackable. If you had a specific time frame you could write the years or months on your art. For example, one page for 2016’s progress. A separate page for Q1 2017. Lots of options.

A big thanks to Derek for compiling that awesome post with lots of examples. You can check it out here if you need more inspiration to pay off debt or set a saving goal.

This year of sabbatical has taught me that I need goals to help move me forward.

I’m not 100% sure what we would use the money for.

But I am 100% sure that when we figure it out, I will be SO happy we started saving now vs later!

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Discussion Questions:

  1. Are you more focused paying off debt or saving?
  2. Does having written goals help bring focus to your actions?
  3. Is it winter were you live yet? We already had 4 inches of the white fluffy stuff!
  4. What would you do with an extra $100k?

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26 thoughts on “Smart Goals with Savings Art

  1. Wow, that is a cool idea! And a very tasteful way to display your savings goals without plastering dollar figures on the wall 😉

    I completely agree with you about goals being important for moving forward and taking our savings to the next level. Before I had heard of “FIRE” or realized that quitting my day job was within reach, I was getting lazy with saving. I upgraded my apartment for a brief stint. I toyed with buying a new sports car. Yikes! Once I had a goal and a date in mind, though, I got super serious with cutting expenses. It definitely helps!

    • I totally forgot to show it to you when you were in our book room! So I was super curious if you happen to notice it on our wall.

      And I agree it can be tough. After we are out of debt and putting in 10-20% in our retirement accounts, it’s easy to get lazy if there is extra. But if we set a goal that if we save $10k we could hike Kilimanjaro with our best friend. Or if we save $50k we might be able to buy a rental house (a down payment plus reno cash.) A $100k could be a year long trip around the world. Or $40 could fund the training and support of 20 new CASA volunteers for an entire year. Then it’s easy to say, “actually, this thing is way more important to me than a bigger apartment or nicer car or just grabbing take out more often.” Even if my goals change over time, I tend to do better if I have them. =)

  2. Are you selling these? Such a pretty, functional, motivating way to save!!! Love it.

    We have savings goals right now, but I’m feeling a bit scattered. I really need to take the time to focus in on those goals and develop some concrete benchmarks to aim for.

    • Ha! I actually started by trying to find some pictures in the adult coloring books that would work, but none were a great fit. So I finally broke out some stamps, ink and paper. I’ll admit it took almost 3 hours. =/ But I figured if they are going to be hanging where I can see them for YEARS, I need to be able to tolerate how they look!

      I don’t actually know exactly what the money would be for, but it’s an amount that would open up a LOT of doors. From buying another rental, building a house, starting a business, starting a non profit, a year of world travel, creating a scholarship fund, just so many options that I would be thrilled about.

  3. I really like the concept of saving art. Once you’re out of debt, your right, it can be hard to stay motivated if you don’t have a clear goal. Having art like this gives you a visual goal that can keep you gazelle intense when it comes to saving!

  4. I love posts about savings art. I am not artistic at all, but I love the idea. I’ve seen people do flower petals (or more abstract squiggles — see…so artistic with the names!) with different colors before, but never actual symbols like different size flowers. Clever! I’m writing a post about goals. And mostly how I still suck at them after blogging for a year.

    • I actually wanted to do trees, but I had flower stamps. It was kind of a Picasso quote moment. “If I don’t have red, I use blue.” =) And these are totally stamps. It would have been a disaster if I had painted them!

  5. Wow, really cool idea. Mrs. RB40 would love this. I’ll show it to her. I’m more of a number guy so numbers are already motivating enough. 🙂

    • If she ends up making one, make sure to throw in a link here so we can all check it out! I’m glad you like it. I think it will help motivate me even though we don’t have a firm plan in place yet. =)

  6. This is really cool! I don’t know that I have the artistic abilities to make anything remotely pleasant-looking come out of it though :-). I also am a numbers guy like Joe, so spreadsheets and charts do it for me.

    “I’m not 100% sure what we would use the money for.” I think this is a big part of why most people find it so hard to save. Saving is a long-term goal and priorities change, so you can never really be sure that you will actually want what you are saving for by the time you get there. I like to view my saving as saving for more options in the future. Maybe I’ll want the same things and maybe I won’t, but I’ll be able to make the decision for myself at that time either way.

    • Saving for the possibilities/having more option can be hard. Having a set dollar amount gives it a bit of structure. I can think of 10 really cool things we could do with $100k and that excitement I hope will help keep me focused. Instead of just saving “more” for “something.” As to making the pictures. Find a lady who likes to scapebook or make greeting cards and show her this idea. Easy peasy, she will say! She will have all the gear, and a style you would like. A Starbucks giftcard later for her later, and you will be set! =)

  7. I found this statement interesting… “I’m not 100% sure what we would use the money for.”

    Usually people save up for a specific thing. But y’all went and got crazy and just started saving “for no reason”.

    I like the idea that you are indeed free to save for nothing specific, just save to save. That’s it. Why does it always have to be for something specific.

    No one ever gets mad at them self for over saving.

    Thanks for the interesting thought.
    (And thanks for the shout!)


    • I like to think about it as saving for the possibilities. =) 100k would open up a lot of really cool doors and options for us. I don’t know which one would be the best option just yet. But you are right, once we figure it out, I know I will be so happy I started saving now vs later!

  8. I love this idea. We’ve written our goals in the SMART format, but have not displayed them in a visual format like Savings Art.

    We’ve had one snow day that we were not mentally prepared for — luckily it disappeared quickly. 🙂

    • I know I really need the focus of big goals, or else money starts leaking from my budget. =) But I am really excited about the extra $100k! It’s kept me at level laser focus.

  9. A very, very clever idea! Puts my tacky savings tickers to shame, ha.

    Are you more focused paying off debt or saving? Debt.
    Does having written goals help bring focus to your actions? Yes!
    Is it winter were you live yet? We already had 4 inches of the white fluffy stuff! Nope, it’s just about summer here!
    What would you do with an extra $100k? Probably about $15k in renovations, $15k to investments and savings and the rest to the mortgage!