No, you don’t have to give up your Starbucks. Honest. I’m not a big Starbucks fan, and even I really dislike that advice, which seems to be common in this belt-tightening economy. What could be less motivating than the idea that saving money requires denying yourself something you enjoy?

I approach saving from the other end of the spectrum: I’m much more motivated to grow my money when I know I’m working toward a meaningful goal. That’s true for my clients, too. Some are dreaming of a trip to Maui or a brilliant piece of jewelry. Others have their eye on a home remodel or a significant college fund for their children.

Whatever your objective, saving money, just like dieting, is bound to be counterproductive when it becomes all about deprivation. Here are three creative ideas to help you painlessly spend less so you have more for what matters most:

Put your savings on autopilot.

Ask your bank to automatically transfer a sum of money from each paycheck into a savings account. It’s OK to start small. Setting aside even $25 from every paycheck will leave you $650 richer at the end of the year.

Challenge yourself to regularly increase the amount of your automated savings, and you’ll be surprised how quickly the money grows. Mint.com, a free service, will help you budget and track your progress toward your goal.

Think creatively.

Swap nights of babysitting with another couple to hold down the cost of an evening out. Look for discounted restaurant meals and tickets on coupon sites such as Groupon, Social Living and Plum District. (And if you have deals you probably won’t use, sell them on Lifesta or DealsGoRound.) Steer clear of stores where you know you’re prone to splurge.

Don’t use credit cards.

I know what you’re thinking: I want the points! I want the miles! I want the convenience! And I don’t want to carry around a wad of cash everywhere I go.

Just give it a try. Aim to go cash-only for a month or a week … or even just once at a store where you regularly shop. You’ll probably have the same experience as scores of research subjects: Studies show that we spend more readily when we pay with plastic than with bills and coins.

If you’re prone to splurges, promise yourself that you’ll pay for those indulgences with cash. Ask a friend to hold you accountable and see if those safeguards have the desired effect on your spending.


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