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Invest in You: Ready. Set. Grow.

How to save a cool $1,000 without living on ramen or giving up caffeine

Gwen Merz of Fiery Millennials cites restaurant spending as an easy place to cut back and save big.
Source: Gwen Merz

Don't forget the coffee. No need to give up avocado toast.

People love to blame high-end coffee drinks as the reason you're not rich, but maybe just as key is the latte 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.

If you want to end up $1,000 richer by the time April rolls around, just make some small changes. Pay attention to spending. Look for bonuses and cash giveaways. Cut spending in areas that aren't as important to you.

Whether your goal is a fatter retirement account, a vacation fund or starting a cash cushion, these five strategies can help tweak your spending and savings habits.

Start tracking

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," said Stephanie Kibler, a personal finance blogger.

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.

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. Citi offers even more on some account packages.

You could be almost a third of the way to your first $1,000.

Now you're cooking

For more immediate results: Cut back on food spending.

Gwen Merz, who saved $200,000 by the time she was 27 and blogs at Fiery Millennials, 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.

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"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 and 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 gold mine for selling unwanted stuff.

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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% will stock your account with $300 in three months.

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

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