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My Money, My Choices

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a personal finance writer, television host and radio broadcaster. Every Wednesday, she arms Metro readers with tips to keep spending in check.

3 tips that can help keep your savings on track

Let others know about your goal — they can help keep you motivated.

Making your goals visual — like a debt tree, for instance — can be very satisfying, and it helps keep you on track.

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Making your goals visual — like a debt tree, for instance — can be very satisfying, and it helps keep you on track.

It’s easy to set a savings goal. “I want to save $40,000.” There. Goal set.

It is much tougher — much tougher — sticking it out to achieve the goal, particularly when you’re looking at something that’s going to take a while to accomplish. Let’s face it, if you’re nine months in and your best friend says, “Enough with the savings, let’s par-tay!” the temptation to put your goal on the back burner can be strong enough to derail your plans.

If you want to stay motivated, you have to find ways to keep yourself on track.

1. Tell everyone what you’re trying to accomplish.

One of the biggest problems we have is the fact that money is still a big secret. We’re afraid of looking stupid for some decision we make that ends up going horribly wrong. But we’re all making mistakes and if we don’t share our mistakes it means we have to make them all over and over, never learning from our friends or family. Talking about what we are trying to do means we can count on our friends or family to pull us back from the edge when we come close to stepping into the breach. They become our safety net. And they help us stay motivated.

2. Keep your goals visible.

Post them on your fridge, on the bathroom mirror, on the wall right behind your computer. Put them where you see them all the time so you can stay on track. Every time you are tempted to spend money on something that detracts from your goal, you want to be able to quickly remind yourself of why you are saving (and not spending); having a picture of your goal in your wallet, stuck to your computer screen or taped to your credit card reduces the likelihood of being distracted.

3. Measure your progress.

Draw yourself a thermometer graphic to show how much you want to have saved in the next six months. As you accumulate money, colour your way up the thermometer. Or make yourself a Debt Tree where each leaf represents $100. When you pay off $100, you get to rip off a leaf. Very satisfying! Now you have a visual record of your progress to keep you moving in the right direction. Once you’ve hit your goal, make yourself a new chart that includes what you’ve already accomplished and shows what you want to achieve next. Build on your success. Keep moving forward.

No matter how well you prepare and how many precautions you take, there will be times when you’re thrown off track by an unexpected setback. That’s life. Expect those bumps and you’re that much more likely to recover quickly. Having friends to urge you on, going over what you’ve achieved, and taking pride in your progress chart are all ways to get yourself re-focused and back on track.

Whatever you’re facing, it can be a temporary setback or you can let it permanently derail you. It’s up to you.

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