When I’m on a long driving trip, I always look for lottery billboards and spice up my drive imagining what I would do if I won 276 million dollars in the Powerball.  I imagine a house on the water, someone to clean my house, and taking my extended family on relaxing vacations.  What I don’t imagine is quitting work, a huge house, or fancy cars.

What does this have to do with real personal finance, you ask?  A lot.

If you imagine what you would do with a huge lottery windfall, and you are thoughtful about it, it will tell you a lot about your personal priorities and desires.  You can use that information no matter how much money you have, to make sure that you are making good decision with your money and using your money on things that have  value for you.

What do I mean?  Well, let’s look at my dreams.  I dream of a house on the water, a cleaning person, and vacations with my family.  I might not be able to accomplish all those things on my current income, but I can look at my spending to see if I’m making the best financial choices to support those priorities.  Can I keep on driving my car for several more years to spend that money on a week at the beach with my family?  Long term, do I want to move somewhere less expensive so that I can live on the water?  And do I really want to pay someone to clean my house, or do I need to get rid of some stuff so that I don’t have so much to keep clean?

Dreaming of a big win helps me prioritize my wants.  Knowing my true wants is the first step to making those dreams come true.  I may not have won the lottery, but I’ve learned a lot about myself in the process.  It’s an interesting exercise and you might want to try it.

This is a reprint of an old post on goal setting, republished as part of our Back to Basics Week Two focus on Dreaming about your financial goals.  Some other ways to brainstorm your financial goals.  Some other ways to help figure out your priorities include thinking about whether your spending reflects your values and thinking ahead towards how you would like your future to look.

About the Author

Kate Horrell
Kate Horrell is a military financial coach, mom of four teens, and Navy spouse. She has a background in taxes and mortgage banking, and a trove of experience helping other military families with their money. Follow her on twitter @realKateHorrell.