You need to know where your money is going if you’re going to cut expenses. Make sure to keep a log of every dollar spent – it all adds up. You may be unaware that Starbucks coffee alone five times a week adds up $25. This can be done on your phone, an Excel spreadsheet or oldschool in a notebook. You don’t have to be fancy – just make sure you keep a log for every day and write down everything you spent money on – including things like tolls.

You have to teach yourself discipline in order to change how you spend. Try going to the store and forcing yourself to buy nothing. It will feel uncomfortable, but it will get easier each time you do it. Think about it the next day – can you even remember that item you wanted to buy? Do you still really want it? This is a good measure of whether or not its an impulse buy. Also remember, just because everyone else has it doesn’t mean you need it. Many purchases are fads and will end up in your sock drawer in a month. Really assess the item. For example – do you really need an iPad? What would the benefits be to owning one? Can you afford to pay for the 3G required to make the item really work? Do you already have an iPhone and you really just need an eReader instead of a full blown iPad? Ask yourself tough questions and play Devil’s advocate.

Figure out a percentage of money you will save each pay check. The minute you get your money,take that amount out and put directly into savings. Make sure you do this every time you receive money – even if its for your birthday.

Impulse buys can hit your bank account hard, especially if you do a few times a month. Make sure to research any purchases by reading reviews online, talking to friends, and comparing different products. Also make sure to see if there are  military discounts and coupon codes you can use. After you’ve done your research and prepared, wait 1-2 weeks before actually buying the big item. It may be frustrating, but this will allow you to be 100% certain it is a purchase you want to make.

If your money goes directly into your account, it’s more likely to stay there. If you do take money out in order to go out on the town or to the mall, only take a certain amount — not all of it! If it’s not there, then you can’t spend it. If possible, leave all debit and credit cards at home and just use the cash you withdrew.

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