15 easy ways to start saving money

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Money can be awkward to talk about and complicated to think about because there's endless ways to allocate your funds. If you tend to be a spender that wants to be more of a saver, here are some simple ways to start building up that rainy day fund or putting away money to reach a financial goal.

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Start budgeting

This is a simple way to visualize your expenses and evaluate where savings can be made. Budgeting gives you control of your money by giving you a sense of where it is going. Perhaps you'll come across a monthly bill that seems to have crept higher or a habit that is getting too expensive. Budgeting allows you to create a spending plan, which ensures that you'll always have enough money to pay for the things you need and to save for the things you want. Following a budget will also keep you out of debt or help you work your way out of debt. There are plenty of budgeting apps you can use to start - you'll most likely have to link your credit cards and bank accounts, along with billing information for your cable, utilities, rent, car payments, etc. You can also just make a list on your own.

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Put the cards away and use cash

It's easy to whip out your credit card, swipe and go. And then, 45 swipes later, you've spent money on things you didn't need. A study published in the Journal of Consumer Research found that when people pay for items using hard cash rather than card, they place a higher value on the purchase. If you think about it, physically handing over your money and watching it disappear is pretty painful. Try withdrawing a predetermined amount of money for the week or month and commit to spending only that amount.

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Make a grocery list

An average American family spends around $647 each month on groceries. You can easily cut those costs by sticking to a grocery list and avoiding those impulse buys you throw in the cart when you don't have a plan. A grocery list is a great way to stay on track of both your meals and your spending. Before heading out, take a good look at what you already have in your kitchen and jot down what you don't. You can also pick out some recipes for the week and follow the ingredient list while you shop.

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Choose generic over brands

Speaking of groceries, generic items tend to be cheaper than most brand names. If you're shopping at a specific grocery store, lean towards the store brand as opposed to a popular brand of the same thing. Generic or store-brands are generally cheaper than national-brand items because the retailer can optimize the production to suit consumer demand and reduce advertising costs. It's a misconception that price is indicative of the quality. In some cases, the packaging is the only thing differentiating two items and making the one cheaper than the other.

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BYOL - Bring your own lunch

Groceries can already set you back, and the monthly cost of that food probably doesn't include the money you spend on lunch. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spends approximately $3,365 on food outside of the home each year. That's $280 per month. Buying lunch a few times a week may seem harmless and easy in the moment, but that $8 soup-and-sandwich combo adds up.

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Buy staples in bulk

Not only does buying in bulk usually cost less than buying items in smaller sizes, but it also prevents you from making more frequent trips to the store. You can't impulse buy in the checkout line if you aren't in the checkout line. Some good things to buy in bulk are toilet paper, laundry detergent, diapers and non-perishable food items like dry pasta and canned beans.

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Change your light bulbs

Utility bills are a burden everyone has to put up with. Changing your light bulbs to LED can help knock the bill down a few notches. According to energy efficiency experts, switching your old light bulbs for new ones could be the easiest way for you to reduce your household energy consumption and save money. The reason is quite simple. Quality LED light bulbs use 75% less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs, and they last 25 times longer, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And in recent years, LEDs have become more and more affordable.

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Cancel you gym membership

The gym isn't the only way to exercise. Instead of paying for a membership, try to get creative in how you stay fit. The internet is a perfect place to start - fitness trainers and yoga gurus regularly post exercise regimes on their public social media channels for anyone to follow. It gives them exposure and you the freedom to work out from the comfort of your own home.

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Use coupons

It may seem old-fashioned and it may take some time, but couponing is worth the savings. The Sunday paper comes loaded with a book of coupons to cut, but you can also do a quick online search. There are websites that allow you to "clip" coupons online and either print or save them to your phone. Some stores even have apps that offer coupons digitally.

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Make coffee at home

The average price for a cup of coffee is $2.99, according to market research firm NPD Group. And if more gourmet coffee shops are your go-to, the average cost is $4.24 a cup. This means you could be spending between $5 and $25 a week, $20 to $100 a month and between $240 and $1,200 a year - on just coffee. There's no argument that buying coffee on the way to work is more convenient than brewing some at home, but the extra cash you'll save is definitely worth the effort.

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Shop around

You might be able to save money each month by looking for better deals on everything from cable to auto and home insurance. To start, look at your current bills for providers. Find time to make some phone calls to your provider to make sure you understand your bill and get at least three quotes from different companies.

 

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Sell your stuff

A super simple way to make some money that you can then save is to look at online marketplaces to sell what you don't need. For example, you can dig up some items from your closet that you never wear and try to sell them. Most people are in the same boat as you - trying to save some money and not wanting to splurge just to buy a decent furniture piece. If you're looking to make a few bucks, chances are someone's looking to buy a book shelf for under $100. Win-win. If you have items in your home you aren't exactly in love with and barely use, sell them.

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Try a savings jar

The concept behind a savings jar is pretty simple - you drop cash into a jar whenever you have change, and before you know it, you'll have a good amount of money for your savings account. Though this might be best for people who tend to use a lot of cash, you can drop any amount into a savings jar. Dollar bills, quarters, anything - it's always fun to find extra money laying around at the end of the month.

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Receive cash back on your purchases

Another quick way to save is signing up for websites where you can earn "cash back" for just spending how you normally would online. If you use the tools available on websites and credit cards, you can get up to 10% back on most purchases. And as a bonus, you don't have to wait for sales or find coupons. After you sign up, just visit the site whenever you shop online. You'll pay the full amount when you buy but receive the discount back in the form of a rebate.

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Get a reusable water bottle

Instead of using single-use plastic water bottles everyday, you should buy a reusable one and fill it. Recent analysis by Penn State came to the conclusion that Americans spend over $11 billion annually on bottled water. Why spend money on something that is already coming out of your tap? But water isn't the only thing. Think of all the disposable items like utensils or lunch bags you use regularly and run a simple cost-benefit on buying a reusable version.

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