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Five easy ways you can save yourself $1,000 in three months

Key Points
  • Small changes can add up to big savings.
  • No matter your goal, from beefing up a retirement account, saving for a vacation, or establishing a cash cushion, you can tweak your spending and savings habits and watch those balances grow.
  • Keep track of your spending for a week or two, and you’ll start to see some eye-opening numbers. “When you add it up you learn the most about yourself and your spending,” says Stephanie Kibler of the blog Poorer Than You.
Save $1,000 in three months

You've got this. In the next three months, a handful of simple strategies can net you a cool $1,000.

Everyone talks about lattes, as if high-end espresso drinks are responsible for all your financial woes.

In fact, there are so many small ways to derail your finances, and lattes only come in for the loudest criticism. Those lunches out, the occasional muffin, late fees, memberships you don't use all add up to less cash for vacations, gifts, retirement — whatever you wish you had more money for.

Watch out for lattes in reverse: Instead of spending a regular amount, you fail to take advantage of a benefit. The result is the same: money slipping out of your grasp.

Here are five ways to save money, from inching up on your 401(k) plan savings to writing down absolutely every penny you spend.

First, track your spending

Keep track of your spending for a week or two for some eye-opening numbers. "When you add it up, you learn the most about yourself and your spending," says Stephanie Kibler of the blog Poorer Than You.

An expert saver and budgeter who saved $100,000 by age 32, Kibler says small expenses may not register until you see the totals. That's when it becomes harder to justify buying lunch because you were running late.

Analog types can use a small notebook. Spreadsheet types can use Excel. Personal finance apps like Mint or Personal Capital are also good methods.

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Low-hanging fruit

"Try to get some small wins right at the start," said Kibler, such as snagging a bonus for opening a new banking account. Many banks, among them Chase, PNC and Santander, are offering as much as $300 right now.

You could be almost a third of the way to your first thousand.

Now you're cooking

For more immediate results: cut back on food spending.

Gwen Merz, who blogs at FieryMillennials and saved $200,000 by the time she was 27, says the average American spends about $3,000 on eating out every year. Her advice: Cut out or at least cut down severely on those restaurant meals and snacks.

Try to get some small wins right at the start.
Stephanie Kibler
blogger, Poorer Than You

"It sounds pretty drastic but if you spend $250 a month, that's $750 [in three months] right there," Merz said. You might not have to do much else to hit your $1,000.

When you cook, it's a double score, Kibler says. Learn to make some cheap meals in advance, so you save on groceries abd reduce your temptation to order food since you've got meals ready to go.

One person's trash ...

Thanks to the Marie Kondo Netflix series, decluttering is having a moment.

Why not make some money while you clean house?

"You'd be surprised what people will pay for," Kibler said. From baby things to cereal box tops to cardboard tubes to expired gift cards, eBay is a goldmine for selling unwanted stuff.

The key is to look at past auctions to see what items have actually sold for. Kibler sold box tops and snagged $8.50.

"You could very easily make $5 to $10 a week," Kibler said.

Over three months, that's $60 or $120.

Up your contributions

Depending on your salary, a small increase in 401(k) plan savings contributions can get you to a third of your goal. If you make $60,000, boosting your contribution by just 2 percent will stock your account with $300 in three months.

You win twice. First, you reduce your taxable income. Second, you save somewhat painlessly.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.