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Sometimes the hardest thing about saving money is just getting started. It can be difficult to figure out simple ways to save money and how to use your savings to pursue your financial goals. This step-by-step guide to money-saving habits can help you develop a realistic savings plan.

Record your expenses: The first step to saving money is to figure out how much you spend. Keep track of all your expenses—that means every coffee, newspaper and snack you buy. Ideally, you can account for every penny. Once you have your data, organize the numbers by categories, such as gas, groceries and mortgage, and total each amount. Consider using your credit card or bank statements to help you with this.

Make budget: Once you have an idea of what you spend in a month, you can begin to organize your recorded expenses into a workable budget. Your budget should outline how your expenses measure up to your income—so you can plan you’re spending and limit overspending. In addition to your monthly expenses, be sure to factor in expenses that occur regularly but not every month, such as car maintenance.

Plan on saving money: Now that you’ve made a budget, create a savings category within it. Try to put away 10–15 percent of your income as savings. If your expenses are so high that you can’t save that much, it might be time to cut back. To do so, identify non-essentials that you can spend less on, such as entertainment and dining out.

Decide on your priorities: After your expenses and income, your goals are likely to have the biggest impact on how you save money. Be sure to remember long-term goals—it’s important that planning for retirement doesn’t take a back seat to shorter-term needs. Prioritizing goals can give you a clear idea of where to start saving. For example, if you know you’re going to need to replace your car in the near future, you could start putting money away for one.

Avoid impulse spending: Always try to stick within the budget as impulse buying will eat in to your savings plan. Always try to prioritize what you need first with other needs coming after words. If you need to buy something always have a contingencies for items you may need for example if you are budgeting for a holiday trip, add extra cash for shopping within the holiday budget.

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