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Small Money-Saving Habits Worth Something Big

When thinking about how to improve your saving and spending habits, it is common to devise an overly restrictive and impractical plan that you won’t likely stick with in the long term.

Instead of swearing off shopping or restaurants for eternity—a strategy you’re bound to break before the end of the week—try these small changes that won’t radically change your day-to-day routine, but will still rack up some extra cash in the short term:

Automate Transfers to Your Savings Account. You can save over $1000 in a year by transferring just $20 to your savings account once a week. Use your bank’s transfer automation feature and you won’t even have to remind yourself each week. Many banks also offer “spare change” transfers that round your purchases up to the nearest dollar and transfer over the excess change each day. These changes are subtle enough that you may not even notice them—but add up over time.

Leave the Plastic at Home. Every mental budget immediately goes out the window as soon as you’re in the dressing room trying on that adorable (and expensive) new denim jacket. So the next time you go shopping, bring cash and leave your credit card at home. This will leave you no choice but to stick to your originally planned budget, no matter how cute that denim jacket is.

Synchronize Your Payments. Many credit card companies offer the option to pick which day your payment is due, so try syncing all of your credit card and bill payments to be due on the last day of each month. Starting each new month with a clean slate and zero balance makes it much simpler to mentally keep track of your spending. Not to mention, if you’ve already rolled over a sizable balance from last month, it’s very easy to think “what’s another $50” on a frivolous purchase.

Try a “No Spend” Work Week. Challenge yourself to go an entire work week without spending any cash on meals. It may seem tough at first, but your kitchen pantry may have a cheaper alternative to that morning latte and gourmet cranberry muffin. Do the math—going out to lunch with co-workers even just once a week can quickly add up to well over $50 a month. And here’s an extra perk: Chances are you just might drop a pound or two by cutting out these expensive and often unnecessary calories.

Follow the 30-Day Rule. Have you ever made a quick stop at Target to pick up shampoo, and walked out with a $100 shopping cart full of impulse purchases? You’re not alone. Next time, try to wait 30 days before splurging on any expensive, non-essential item. This waiting period will help you decide if you really want the item, or if instant gratification is driving your spending. Plus, at the end of the 30 days if you still decide to purchase the item, chances are the item went on sale, you found it cheaper in another store, or you received a coupon for it.

With just a bit of discipline, you can develop strong saving habits, curb impulse spending and help keep your monthly budget intact. Importantly, keep track of how much you’ve saved using these techniques to keep you motivated when the temptation to spend returns.

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