What are your financial goals?
Some years back there was a television commercial that started off showing a handsome man and his elegant-looking watch. The voice-over described the watch in glowing terms and went on to tell you the staggering price it cost. Then the voice said something along the lines of, "And what does he do with this watch? He tells time."
It turned out this wasn't a watch commercial, but rather a commercial about financial planning. The voice-over broke down the numbers of how much money this watch owner wasted in buying something that served no more use than a $15 Timex, and how the money could have grown over the years to make a tidy nest egg.
I remember being extremely amused by it.
If you are facing very specific financial needs currently, such as paying off debts or simply making sure all your bills are paid on time, it can be hard sometimes to think past that point to future goals. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't have at least some ideas of where you want to be in five years, ten years, and more.
Aside from college for the kids, and maybe a nice bit of traveling for yourself, there is one aspect that it is never too early to be planning for. Yes, I am speaking of retirement, but not in the "hanging out on the golf course" sense.
Americans are living longer and longer and because of that we are needing more money to support ourselves in our old age when we can no longer physically work. Not too long ago, my aunt called me to let me know we have a bit of a crisis in our own family. My grandmother has reached the age of 94. She's developed Alzheimer's and needs constant care. My aunt told me she's starting to become very concerned because my grandmother is running out of money. No one ever thought this would happen and I know, though her mental capabilities have dwindled, she would never have ever wanted to become a burden for her children, were she aware of the situation. As of right now, it looks quite likely that our entire family will need to start chipping in as much as possible to meet her monthly bills.
So, even if you have immediate goals that swallow every last dime right now, such as paying off a college loan, just take a few moments to sketch out all your financial goals and plans and even write down some things you might do to reach them. This goal list is very useful to have handy, especially on days when you might be tempted to make a questionable "splurge" purchase. You can whip it out to remind yourself of where you really want to be in your own financial future, and stop yourself from buying that way over-priced watch you didn't need anyway.