If your New Year's resolution is to stop spending and start saving for that all-important house deposit, then it's time to start looking over your budget and planning for the months ahead. There's nothing better than getting your hands on the keys to your very own home, so take a look at our list of top tips to help you reach your goal.
Build a compelling case
Without confidence in your plans, you'll struggle to achieve your goals. The economy hasn't been kind to savers over the last few years, but things are starting to change - just last week the Office for National Statistics announced that inflation has fallen below the 2% target, which means savings rates are finally set to rise. What's more, Ben Broadbent of the Bank of England expects real incomes to rise in 2014, so the time is ripe for putting your cash aside.
It's never too early to start spring cleaning, so start the year by sorting through your old books, CDs, DVDs, clothes and appliances and setting aside any saleable items. There are plenty of quick and easy ways to sell online, and if auction sites are too time-consuming, try comparing the deals on offer from people like Music Magpie, Zapper and We Buy Books. They all offer free postage or courier services, and the money your earn will give your savings a nice kickstart.
Minimise your bills
Cutting back on household expenses is a great way to boost your savings, and there are dozens of ways to save on your energy bills to get you started. Start by monitoring your usage to see where you can cut back, and make sure to compare gas and electricity suppliers to guarantee you the best deal.
It's not only your energy bills that need attention, though, and it's important to also compare your home phone and broadband deals. This is a quick and easy way to make sure you're getting value for money in every aspect of your home, and you can put aside any money you save towards your deposit.
Find cheap thrills
Even though you're trying to save money, that doesn't mean you can't still have fun. Be on the lookout for free events in your area, or take up a hobby that costs time rather than money. Joining a local theatre group or meditation meeting might tick off a New Year's resolution and eliminate costly evenings at a restaurant or bar. This will help you to trim your going out budget, giving you the chance to funnel any extra money into your savings account.
Once you start approaching your goal, it's time to make your money work for you. Savings accounts and instant-access ISAs offer flexibility, but interest rates are generally less than 2%. Fixed rate ISAs offer higher rates (currently around 3%), but lock your money in for 1-5 years. If you already have an ISA, make sure the bonus interest rate hasn't disappeared - if it has, move your money to take advantage of a better rate. Remember, rates may rise in 2014, so keep your eyes peeled for improving deals.
To help you keep on top of your outgoings and see just how much you're saving each month, sign up to our free Money Dashboard service, where you can set life goals, monitor your bank accounts and plan your financial future.