Dear Dave: I’m having a hard time saving money. Do you have any practical advice for saving when you have an average income? – Nikki

Dear Nikki: One thing I’ve learned over the years is that people only start saving money when they learn healthy money habits – like living on a written, monthly budget – and let their future needs become more important than their current wants. What I’m saying here is it will only happen when you make saving a priority.

Everything doesn’t have to magically line up before you start saving, and there are plenty of easy, practical ways to save money and breathe a little extra air into your finances. The biggest one is by saying goodbye to debt. Monthly payments are the biggest drain I can think of when it comes to saving money, because debt robs you of your income.

Most people are shocked when they realize how much they’re actually spending at the grocery. It’s easy to walk through the aisles grabbing things on impulse, but it all adds up. Save money on groceries by planning out your meals each week.

Here are some other good ideas:

  • Buy generic. One of the easiest ways to save money is to give name brands the boot.
  • Skip the coffee shop, and make coffee at home.
  • Take your lunch to work, and eat breakfast and dinner at home.
  • Cut your ties with cable, and try network apps or streaming services.
  • Check your insurance rates. You owe it to yourself to have your agent look things over for you, and see what savings he can dig up.
  • When buying, pay in cash and ask about discounts. You never know until you ask, and you should always ask.
  • Declutter your home, garage, basement or attic. Get rid of things you don’t need and are willing to let go of for the sake of your financial future.
  • Lower your cellphone bill by getting rid of extras like costly data plans, phone insurance and useless warranties. Don’t be afraid to haggle with your provider, or switch to another company.

If your goal is to save money, a vacation is just about the worst thing you can do. Finding fun close to home will save hundreds or thousands of dollars.

When it comes to saving, Nikki, how carefully and intentionally you spend can be more important than how much you make! – DAVE

— Dave Ramsey offers financial advice as host of a nationally syndicated radio program, “The Dave Ramsey Show.” Locally, his program may be heard from 6 to 9 p.m. weekdays on TALK 104.1-FM WKCT. For more, visit www.daveramsey.com.

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