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How to save money: 5 small lifestyle changes that can make a big difference to your bottom line

Twenty/20

Americans spend an average of $756 per month on transportation, $618 per month per couple on food eaten at home, and $227 per month on entertainment, according to the Better Money Habits report from Bank of America.

While many of these monthly expenses may seem essential, there are easy ways to put some of that money back in your pocket. And cutting $50 to $100 out of your budget per month can make a big difference in the long run.

Here are five simple ways to cut regular spending and help you save.

1. Use budgeting tools

In terms of cutting down spending, "a lot of it is very dependent on knowing what your expenses are and being able to figure out where you are spending your money," says certified financial planner Laura Bereiter. To do that, she recommends using budgeting websites and apps like You Need a Budget or Mint, which, using graphs and charts, break down where users' money is going by category such as food, entertainment, and housing.

Creating a budget can be the difference between guessing whether or not you spend a lot of money eating out and knowing that you do. Seeing "what that number is really helps to change your habits," she says.

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Farnoosh Torabi: Making 5 changes can save you big money

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2. Automate your savings and bill payments

"Have your bank automatically take a percentage of your income or $10 a week or whatever you designate and put it in a savings account," says personal finance expert Farnoosh Torabi.

Do the same with monthly bills. "This ensures that you never miss a payment, you're always gonna be on time. It helps to boost your credit, and you don't have to pay any late fees or delinquency fees," she says.

3. Pay off credit cards

"Pay off your credit cards monthly," says financial advisor Marc Schindler, "because a lot of the credit card companies charge north of 21% interest."

Paying your credit card bills in full and on time helps you avoid steep late fees. It can also help you maintain healthy credit, since your payment history can account for 35% of your credit score.

A lot of it is very dependent on knowing what your expenses are and being able to figure out where you are spending your money.
Laura Bereiter
Certified financial planner

4. Use a workout app

"My husband and I use an at-home workout app," says Bereiter. "So instead of having gym memberships, we have apps that we can put on our Apple TV and do workouts in our basement. And we found that that helps us work out more because there's no barrier of having to go somewhere else to work out, but then we also save money because we can both use the same one."

Apps like the Nike Training Club offer an assortment of workouts and cost $14.99 per month. Gym memberships can cost up to $50 per month on average and can even get as high as $300 per month at some clubs.

You can find any number of free wellness resources online, too. For example, there are close to 500 instructional videos on Yoga with Adriene, a YouTube channel with over 5 million subscribers.

5. Eat less meat

Cutting down on your meat consumption can also help to cut down monthly costs.

"If you do a plant-based diet," says Schindler, "your grocery bills are probably going to be significantly less than if you're eating a lot of meat." A study in the Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition found that a meatless diet costs nearly $750 less per year.

Try looking for recipes that help you swap out an $8 pound of beef for a $2 block of tofu, for example, or start your day with almond or peanut butter to get a good serving of protein.

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