Saving money takes effort and discipline -- qualities that don't always come naturally. And that could explain why 58% of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. If you're tired of staring at a sorry bank account balance, you'll need to ramp up your savings game, pronto. Here are a few tricks that'll help you do just that.

1. Stick to a budget

Saving money gets a whole lot easier when you actually know where your earnings go month after month. That's why you really need a budget. To create one, list your recurring monthly expenses, factor in once-a-year expenses, and then compare that total to what your paychecks deliver. If you're not happy with the results (meaning, you're spending down all, or most, of your earnings), then you can go through that budget and identify ways to cut corners.

Glass jar with lid open, overflowing with coins


2. Automate your savings

It's easy to be tempted to spend money when it's sitting right there in your checking account. A better bet, therefore, is to automate your savings so that a portion of your earnings goes directly into either a bank account or a retirement plan, depending on your needs. With the former, you can arrange for a certain amount of money to land in your savings account. With the latter, you can sign up to participate in your company's 401(k) plan, or find an IRA with an automatic transfer option. The beauty is that you'll effectively be forced to save money, and at the same time, you won't really miss the cash you're socking away.

3. Have a savings challenge

If you're not motivated to save money for the sake of buying yourself more financial security, then do it for the sake of beating your spouse, friend, or neighbor at a game. A good way to boost your cash reserves is to find someone who's willing to engage in a savings contest. You might, for example, say that whoever spends the least over a two-month period gets treated by the other to dinner at the restaurant of his or her choice. Or, make the reward a no-cost endeavor and say that the winner gets his or her house cleaned by the loser. There are plenty of options to play around with, but if you make a game out of saving money, you just might do it.

4. Enforce a 24-hour rule for impulse purchases

The bulk of Americans give in to impulse purchases, whether online or in stores. But the more you spend on a whim, the less money you'll have left over to save. To remedy that, institute the 24-hour rule before completing unplanned purchases. Essentially, force yourself to wait a full 24 hours from the time you're inspired to buy something to the time you go through with that transaction. Much of the time, you'll realize you can do without that new appliance/clothing item/accessory, which means you'll have more cash left over to save.

5. Get a side hustle

If you're eager to increase your savings, boosting your earnings is a good way to achieve that goal. But while you can't necessarily march into your boss's office and demand a raise, you can get yourself a side gig on top of your regular job. The best part? You can take a hobby you enjoy and turn it into an income source, whether it's writing, photography, pet care, crafting, or baking. And since that income won't already be earmarked for existing expenses, you should be able to save all of it.

Saving money can be challenging, but that doesn't mean it's not important. Follow these tips to boost your savings -- you'll be thankful for it once you do.