It can be challenging to remain on track when you're saving for the long-term because it's easy to lose focus and start spending money on the things you want in the present rather than the future. Here are a few ways to stay motivated to reach your savings goals—whether it will take weeks, months, or years to complete.
Remember Why You're Saving
Understanding why you're saving money is pivotal to staying motivated. You may be saving for a house or car downpayment, your children's college tuition, or your dream vacation. Either way, having the end goal in mind can ease the pain of forgoing short-term pleasures to save up. For example, if you're saving for a downpayment on a house, it can take quite a while, depending on how much you can set aside each month. You might start to feel disenchanted with the idea after a few months (or years) have passed.
If you find yourself in such a situation, revisit your reason for saving for a house. Maybe you're living with your parents and absolutely can't wait to get out on your own; maybe you're holding off on starting a family because the current place you live in doesn't have enough room for a baby; maybe you're looking to relocate and start over elsewhere. Whatever the reason, write it down and make sure you connect with it. It helps when you have a why that resonates with you. Saving just because it's the right thing to do doesn't help because it's usually not a strong enough motivator.
Set Savings Milestones
Some people lose motivation to save because their goals seem intimidating. Saving $20,000 in five years for a house downpayment may seem improbable, but it's possible when you break down your goal into smaller milestones that keep you motivated. Instead of framing your goal as $20,000 in five years, break it down into monthly segments. Saving $333.33 per month sounds less intimidating than $20,000.
You might decide to celebrate the progress you make with every $5,000 saved so that you have four slightly smaller milestones to reach, rather than the big $20,000. You don't want to be so scared by the goal that you want to avoid it. You want your goal to be manageable, so you feel as though it's attainable.
Visualize Your Progress
Another tactic that might help is visualizing your progress. When months and years pass, and you're still trucking along with your savings, you might lose sight of the progress you've made. Saving becomes stale. To counter that, create visuals that chart your progress, so you're always reminded of how far you've come. This can help with the previous tip of celebrating small milestones, too.
You could decide to draw a thermometer with increments of money and fill it in whenever you send money to your savings account. Or, build a "chain" of savings; for every $X of money saved, you can add a chain that represents that amount. You could also decide to save $X of money per day, and every time you save that amount, star the date on a physical calendar. You might be driven to keep that chain going. These visuals can help drive your progress forward, and they serve as a constant reminder of your goals. It's harder to lose motivation when you're faced with a visual reminder every day!
Re-Evaluate Your Goals
If you're not feeling as motivated as you once were, it might be a sign that you need to re-evaluate your goals. Perhaps something has changed in your life, and you're just not feeling it anymore—which is perfectly fine. Plenty of people change their minds about their goals, and it's an avenue worth exploring, especially if you can't nail down a compelling why.
If you find that your goals don't excite you as much anymore, re-create a list of savings goals and re-prioritize. You might find that you need to switch your focus to something else, and that's okay. You can always take the savings you've already accrued and put it toward another goal.