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There comes a time in everyone’s life where you need to start living by a budget to make sure you’re creating the best possible financial future for yourself. Sure, it was fun to not worry about money and to just spend as you wanted, but when the bills start pouring in, it’s time to be smart about your money and find ways to cut costs. There are lots of simple things you can do that will save you a surprising amount of money, so start with these five tips and then go from there. Before you know it, you’ll be saving money and making some very smart financial decisions.

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Make A Budget

It seems like a simple first step, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t even have a monthly budget. It’s important because it allows you to see where you are, what you have to work with and how much you have to spend. It’s probably the most important step to understanding just where your money goes every month and where you can cut costs. You won’t know how you can save if you don’t have a clear understanding of where you’re spending first.

Bring Your Lunch

So a cold cut sandwich and some yogurt in the lunch room may not be as fun as a burger at your local diner, but you just may be shocked when you add up how much you spend going out to lunch every day. Try brown bagging it for just one week to see how much money you can save, plus as a bonus you’ll eat a lot healthier too. It’s a win-win, and you’ll see instant savings. Sure, there is a smaller expense up front when you purchase all those lunch items, but it’s always significantly less expensive than going out to eat.

Get Rid Of Email Sales

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So it’s an average weekday and you’re checking your email when you get one of those special sale email alerts in your inbox. You quickly spring into action to snag up the item before it’s gone. Sure, you probably saved a few bucks on whatever you purchased, but if that email hadn’t popped up, would you have actually purchased it? Those popular email deals are well marketed as money saving opportunities, but if you wouldn’t have purchased that item anyway, then you are actually spending more money. Unsubscribe from all those alerts and you’ll have a cleaner inbox and a fatter wallet.

Pay Bills On Time

This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how much money is wasted every year due to late payments on loans and credit card fees. Do everything you can to stay on top of your bills every month and pay them on time. Not only will you help your credit rating, but you’ll save a lot of money on those late charges. True, bills can be pretty complicated, so try to schedule alerts, use your accounting software to make payments for you or see if your bank offers automatic payments. There are lots of ways to ensure that your bills are paid on time, so take advantage of those tools to keep your payments as low as possible.

Check On Your Services

In many cases you can call your cable and internet provider to get a lower bill instantly, with just a simple phone call. If not, then it may be time to consider cutting that cord to get rid of a service or two completely. Before you start to panic, remember that there are tons of less expensive online services that provide all the same television shows on demand. If you cut the cable ties, then pick up Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, you’ll save big bucks and you won’t even miss having 200 channels and nothing to watch.

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Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.