How to Make Your Dreams Come True -- Even on a Tight Budget!

Do you have a plan for the future? How about a set of goals? If you could do anything at all, what would it be?

Many of us are so busy with day-to-day life that we don’t have time to think about what we really want for the future. In fact, even if we do think about it, it can be a challenging and perplexing topic.

Goals are important. For many people, their goal is simply to get through the day. But days become weeks, weeks become months, and months become years. Then, before you know it, you’ve achieved that one lousy goal of surviving, but you’ve missed the greater opportunity to live a life that’s exploding with passion.

Are you currently doing what you want to do? Take a minute to honestly think about what you want to do, and where you want to go. Do you want a bigger paycheck, a high level management position, or a different career?

My Background

I received a Bachelor’s degree in Biology and Chemistry from a local state university and graduated with the highest honors. I spent four years of my life studying these sciences. During that time, I also spent countless additional hours preparing for dental school.

Dental school is a four-year doctoral program, and the majority of applicants don’t get accepted. I wrote essays, did the paperwork, and even spent an entire summer studying for the entrance exam.

On test day I was beyond nervous. I had been accepted into an early admissions program for outstanding students, but the final requirement was a good score on the exam. I crushed it, scoring in the 95th percentile of all test takers.

I finished my first semester of dental school with straight A’s and was awarded honors for being at the top of the class.

Then I left.

Never mind the five-digit debt that I borrowed for one measly semester. Never mind my five years of work. I left because I was miserable. I didn’t enjoy dentistry and stress was compounding some health issues I had.

In the Present

That was about ten months ago. Since then, I got married, started a thriving blog, started work at the university, and began a full-time PhD program in a field that I strongly care about — personal financial planning.

We also bought a mobile home outright with cash, paid off $19,000 in debt, contributed to my wife’s 401(k), and maxed out our Roth IRA contributions. We were able to do all of that through discipline, vision, and goal setting.

Frugality doesn’t hurt either: It was pretty easy to find excess cash flow when our first-year living expenses were only $12,000.

The Future

What does the future hold? Honestly, I have no idea right now. But I do have goals.

I want to be a wonderful husband who loves and cherishes his wife. I want to provide for her and enable her to pursue her goals. We aren’t sure about kids, but we would like to live closer to family. They are a huge part of our lives.

I want to own a medium-sized home and pay it off quickly. I’d like to start at least one successful business, likely related to financial planning. Although technology is of interest as well.

Financial freedom is a goal, and we intend to easily obtain that before the traditional retirement age, but it’s not an end game. I can’t stand the idea of being idle. I want to live a meaningful and intentional life.

How You Can Accomplish Your Goals

Whatever your goals, whatever your dreams, they’re likely attainable.

I can’t believe where our life is today and how blessed we’ve been during our first year of marriage. Here are some of the ways we found success:

  • Set goals. Always envision where you want to go, and always work towards it.
  • Stop being miserable. Life is full of opportunities for hard working individuals. Stop complaining about your current situation and change it.
  • Find your passion. I’m convinced that everyone has a passion for something. Usually, it’s a couple of different things that you find enjoyable and interesting. Find what makes you tick, and keep doing it. Be diligent and figure out how to monetize that passion.
  • Save more money. Many problems in life are a direct result of poor money management. If you ever want to get ahead in life, spend less than you earn. Spend far, far less. You’ll find yourself with all sorts of new opportunities.
  • Invest your money. Once you’re saving more, it’s time to put that money to work. Investing is crucial to long term success. It enables you to earn passive income and possibly enjoy early retirement. I recommend Vanguard ETFs to the DIY investor. For those wanting a little help, Betterment offer an excellent wealth management service for a very low fee.
  • Track your money. The authors of The Millionaire Next Door present an endless array of statistics on the high correlation between wealthy individuals and the time they spend tracking and managing their money. Always know where your dollars are going. The cheapest and easiest way I’ve found to track spending and investment accounts is Personal Capital. It’s free.
  • Be thankful. Each day, I try to remember to be thankful. There is so much to appreciate in life. Don’t forget that.

Author Bio: Jacob is one half of the Cash Cow Couple. He enjoys reading, writing, and challenging others to live a more intentional life.

Photo Credit: L.C.Nøttaasen

10 comments to How to Make Your Dreams Come True — Even on a Tight Budget!

  • Thanks for the inspiration Jacob! So many dream are achievable, but some people aren’t willing to do “whatever it takes” to get there. Sounds like you did just that!

  • Well written Jacob.

    I have had a set of written goals since 1991 and I review it at least once a month. There is no question I wouldn’t be anywhere near where I am today without them.

  • Great post, Jacob! I’m so impressed that you had the courage to quit dental school after everything you had invested to get to that point. That kind of courage is rare and I’m glad you shared the story.

    Goals are important but I think the gem here is to stop doing the things that don’t serve you or move you in a positive direction regardless of what the “little voices” are saying.

  • That was beautifully written. All the best to you

  • Frugal Pediatrician

    I agree. You have to follow your heart. I tell my kids the last thing I want them to do is go into medicine or healthcare unless they have a passion for it. My son says he wants to be a jedi knight, which is fine with us! As long as you spend less than you have, do what you do well, appreciate hard work, then prosperity will follow. Oh, of course, be on the side of good not evil.

  • KIM

    I understand the pursuit of passion. Unfortunately, and this is of course one responders opinion, passion comes into conflict with reality. We all have natural talents; innate whether we approve or not. To master the sciences is a dream to some, PF is a hobby (or mastering) to others. We can’t help but follow our natural calling…realistic or fantasy. Yet, you can do both. Len is an engineer and PF “guru.” Personally, I would not enjoy Len as much if I didn’t have a Dilbert cartoon playing on the backend of my head (love ya Len). If this is all Len did, well I’d probably move on and read something else. But his real career brings much to the table. He’s multi-talented. All I’m sayin’ is…you do what you were oddly born to do and then you do something different on the side to keep life interesting. Everyone gets burned out at what they were “born to do” because it’s nearly too damn easy…but supplementing your life with your passion while you’re making a decent wage doing what others simply could not conquer or fathom is, strangely, a part of life. That really should be rule number one: Feel the burn. If it explains things such as improving the body while vigorously exposing it to zumba or mud man marathons— or what have should also, then, relate to the mind.

    • Len Penzo

      “Feel the burn.” I like that, KIM. I felt a twinge of sadness when I read Jacob’s article too; very few people have the talent and brains required to be a dentist and he was excelling toward his goal. But I also understand, it is hard for many people to make a living doing something they don’t enjoy.

      (Speaking from experience, those Dilbert cartoons capture the business world of engineering to a tee.)

      • Boy does Dilbert ever capture it to a tee.

        There’s a line somewhere between being “miserable” and just “not following your passion”.

        When I was in high school, I excelled at everything. Math, science, English, French, history. I was interested in all of them and thought that being a translator would be cool. But in the end, I picked engineering because I enjoyed math more than language and because, frankly, I knew I could get a good middle class lifestyle from it.

        I have a book called “It’s called WORK for a reason.” I pick it up now and then as a reminder. When I was a kid, my dad had a job to pay the bills. He liked it, he was good at it, but it didn’t DEFINE him.

  • DC

    A PhD in personal finance?! Maybe someday Universities will sell PhDs in cooking and running and golf too.

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