Be SMART Not Strong: Tips for Black Women's Financial Management

In Ain't I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, bell hooks, intellectual and cultural critic, discusses the downfall of one of the more unilateral characteristics that black people in general, and black women, in particular, pride ourselves on.


As hooks explains it, strength has more to do with the ability to endure than the ability to overcome. And it's true. As it relates to money management, it takes a lot of strength to know the dire consequences of certain financial moves and yet follow through with them anyway.

But Girrl, you still standing! You still strong! You keep your head up!

The key to financial empowerment, though, has nothing to do with strength; it has everything to do with being S.M.A.R.T.

Corporations and institutions run like corporations, such as the New York City Department of Education, large not-for-profits, and (non)-religious foundations, have utilized the structure of the S.M.A.R.T. goal to guide long-term planning, financial or otherwise. Anyone familiar with the use of SMART goals knows that they have to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

The benefits of the SMART goal is that it concretizes and focuses long-term plans, making them manageable and more easy to do-- hence, maximizing the chances of meeting and/or exceeding initial expectations.

Shopping S.M.A.R.T.
One of my core financial values is spending money on experiences, home ownership, or learning. These things are more valuable to me than spending money on items that do not appreciate in value.  (It would not seem so based on my most recent credit card statement, though. I had overspent on clothes, shoes, and accessories in the last couple of months.

To keep me focused on the goal of taking a Spanish class in Costa Rica in August 2013, I have created a SMART goal to get me back on track toward spending money more meaningfully. In fact, I want to reallocate six months of "shopping free" toward financing part of my trip.

Break It Down

From November 1, 2012 until April 30, 2013, each month, I will save the ~$225 that I spent on clothes, jewelry, shoes, and accessories (as evidenced by my previous VISA statements) toward the $1,500 cost of tuition, accommodations, and the like for Costa Rica.

How S.M.A.R.T. is it?
S Is this goal specific? It's a 6-month goal with monthly benchmarks.
M Is this goal measurable? I can count and so can the bank tellers and accountants. $225/month is $225/month, not $224 or $223. My bank statements will reflect the growth.
A Is this goal attainable? I chose one financial value (meaningful spending) and applied it to one area of my life (shopping for clothes) so I will not feel overwhelmed or deprived.
R Is this goal realistic? Deciding not to shop for six-months is realistic. If I want to add nuance to my wardrobe, I can consult styling guides to create "more" outfits.
T Is this goal timely? My goal begins November 1, 2012 and ends April 1, 2013.

Why Be Strong When You Don't Have To?
Having a goal that has a beginning, end, and purpose has made the transition from not shopping for clothes to saving for a trip (or whatever else) more easy. The types of conversations that I have with myself are rooted in a cost-benefit analysis, which are grounded in my personal financial principles and values. It keeps me from having to deal with buyer's remorse, guesswork, and money-related drama.

Kara Stevens blogs at This blog is an online home for all things girl power, wealth management, and juicy living for women-of-color.

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