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Saving money doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, you can start on the path to financial fitness today by saving up for retirement, a house, your kids' education, or just a big purchase. Here are five ways that will make saving up just a little bit easier.
1. Keep a piggy bank -- literally
Yes, piggy banks. Piggy banks, or coin jars, are a great way of saving petty change. But that change in your pocket can easily add up to a substantial sum over time. It can also serve to remind you about the not-so-petty change. Pay in cash when you can, and at the end of the day, dump your change into a jar. Using greenbacks has the added benefit of enforcing budget restrictions and making the act of handing over money more visceral.
2. Embrace the oldies but goodies
When a new car is driven off the lot, its value drops immensely -- on the order of around 20%. While used cars still depreciate, they do so at a less drastic rate than their brand-new brethren.
The same concept goes for other items: Lightly worn winter clothing can go for a third of its initial price if you keep an eye out. In fact, most season-based products can be sold at a fraction of their retail price if you buy them out of season. Appliances such as washers and dryers can be bought for far less than they would be new.
Remember: Buying something used may save you money upfront, but it could cause you to lose money in the long run if it needs constant repairs and maintenance. Check an item's condition before buying it.
3. Set a splurge budget
Instead of making impulse purchases from your general funds, set aside a "splurge fund" for the occasional super-fancy latte or shoes. You're only human, so you will at some point make an impulse buy. Recognize this, and factor it into your budget.
4. Make a list and check it twice
A grocery list isn't only a great way to remind you of what you need; it's also a great way to constrain you from impulse purchases and repeat trips to the store. Even better, set up a delivery service such as Amazon.com's Amazon Subscribe & Save, so that you don't find yourself going to the supermarket and loading up on unnecessary purchases.
5. Buy in bulk
Bulk buying is a smart tactic to use in cutting costs on recurring purchases, because you can often get more of a product for a lower price than you would at a generic store.
Make sure bulk buying fits in with your lifestyle first: Buying bins full of canned soups may not go over well with roommates dealing with limited shelf space. Also consider how much you can store at home, what products you'll actually use, and if the product you're buying is perishable.
Saving money doesn't have to be a struggle. Take a realistic approach to money, sweat the small stuff, and you'll be in great financial health in no time.