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There are hundreds of ways to save money each month. You could walk to work. You could cancel your monthly streaming subscription. You could pack your lunch.
While each of these can be effective, they’re not mandatory. Here are three simple ways to save money each month without eliminating all the little things you enjoy. Because not everyone wants to cut Netflix.
1. Slim down your services
It's true that one way to save money is by “plugging spending leaks,” says Patricia Seaman, senior director at the National Endowment for Financial Education, a nonprofit organization that teaches personal finance. This method calls for reducing minor purchases that can add up, like vending machine sodas or convenience store snacks.
But Seaman says you can also save significant dollars by negotiating down major recurring expenses — while still maintaining them in your budget. Shop your services once a year to see if you can get them for less. That includes your car insurance, cell phone plan, gym membership and more.
Beth Kobliner, the personal finance author behind “Make Your Kid a Money Genius (Even if You’re Not)” and “Get a Financial Life,” advocates conducting a “self-audit” of your finances. For instance, call your cable provider to see if there is a promotion you could take advantage of.
“It’s like the expression the squeaky wheel gets oiled,” Kobliner says. “A person who speaks up and asks for a discount often gets it.”
2. Trade your card for cash
Next up, think about how you pay. Cash isn’t always an option, but, when possible, paying with dollar bills instead of plastic may make you consider your purchase more carefully. That’s because we generally find it more painful to pay with cash than a card, Seaman says. It's especially difficult to break larger bills.
“Because cash is tangible, when you spend it, now you have less,” she says. “Literally, you can see that your level of cash has gone down, whereas when you’re swiping the card, it’s more of an intellectual activity. You know that you just encumbered yourself to pay off this money in the future, but it isn’t the same.”
If you’re the type of person who doesn’t like to part with your benjamins, limit yourself to cash transactions as a control mechanism against expensive buys. You won’t necessarily be cutting anything out, but you’ll make yourself less vulnerable to costly impulse purchases.
3. Really save what you’re saving
Finally, make sure the money you save is actually going toward savings and not back into your pool of easily accessible funds.
You can do this by automatically sending a certain portion of your paycheck to your savings each month instead of your checking account. “The thing about savings is you want to make it just a little bit harder to get to,” Seaman says. “That’s why you don’t want it accumulating in your checking account. It can be very easy to say, ‘Oh, look at all of the money I have. I should just go ahead and spend that.’”
Psychologically, if you never see the money, you probably won’t miss it as much.
For more money-saving tips, check out NerdWallet’s guide for how to build a budget.