For me, 2012 was all about getting rid of my debt and saving up enough to move to Bristol and start my PhD.
In 2013 I want to keep that momentum going. I noticed that after I paid off my student overdraft I started to spend more. It's hard to stay motivated once you are out of the debt emergency.
This year we are back on the horse in a big way. We have already dramatically reduced our food costs for the month, we're trying to sell the car and we're aiming for 200 No Spend Days this year.
So how do you stay motivated to save money once you are debt free?
1. Set a big goal with a deadline
When you were in debt, your goal was to get out. Now you are free, determine what you are saving for. Think BIG!
Our goal is to save up a 25% deposit for a house in the next five years. I will be a graduate student for another 3.5 years, but once The Boyfriend has graduated next year he will enter the workforce. The key will be to avoid lifestyle inflation and live like students for a little while longer! I have done the maths and I think we can do this!
2. Make it acheivable
Unrealistic goals aren't motivational. If you don't meet your goal you will feel disappointed and may well give up. Make a budget, give yourself a buffer in case anything unexpected comes up and THEN plan how much you can save!
We've broken down our goal into yearly chunks. Obviously we will save more once we are not students (and hopefully have real jobs!), so have planned accordingly.
3. What would you do if you were still in debt?
If you've paid off a credit card or overdraft, think about how you did it! Could you replicate this to boost savings? Avoid expensive luxuries until you reach your target.
When I was paying off debts last year, I used No Spend Days as a way to motivate myself. This year I have DOUBLED my goal to aim for 200 No Spend Days in 2013. If you aren't spending money, you must be saving it!
4. Follow your progress
Track your progress by calculating your net worth or even making a chart and colouring in a square for every £100 or £1000 saved. I used to do this with my University revision (but I had awesome star stickers! :D)
5. Reward yourself
If your goal is particularly long term, you might want to use a reward system to keep yourself motivated. Maybe you could enjoy a (cheap!) meal out for every £1000 saved, or go for a walk in the mountains, or plan a frugal holiday for when you reach your goal. You can camp most places in the UK for about £10 a night, for example.
Don't worry if you fall off the wagon from time to time. If you spend too much one week, maybe you could cut back the next. If not, it won't affect you too badly unless it starts being a regular problem, which could be a sign that your budget is too restrictive.
What's your biggest saving goal for 2013? You can do it!