I don't have any extra cash, how do I save money?

Saving money is easier said than done when you already feel strapped for cash. However, with patience and discipline, the saving habit can become second nature. Here are some ways to get started:

Put savings on autopilot

If you have a regular paycheck, one of the best ways to start a savings plan is to first have your paycheck directly deposited into your checking account, and then to set up automatic transfers from your checking account to a high yield savings account.

The best part? You probably won't even miss the amount that's taken out of your check. The trick here is that the money is set aside before you even see it, so the urge to spend it will not be as strong. It won't take long to build up some savings this way. For example, if you have $25 taken out of your checking account every week, in one year you will have a total of $1,300 in your savings account.

If you're reading this, you're probably already following the usual savings strategies of setting your thermostat, eliminating or combining car trips, clipping coupons and watching for sales on basics such as groceries or clothing. Here are some more savings tips:

Look for free food

Evan Shorten, CFP and President of Paragon Financial Partners in Los Angeles suggests taking advantage of "Kids Eat Free" nights. "Some restaurants have a night during the week when children eat for free. This is also a great way to create a reward for the family by going out to eat for a big discount."

Save on entertainment

Lauren Fairbanks runs LifeStyler, a New York City website about how to live in one of the most expensive cities in the world on a budget. She suggests using Hulu (free) or Netflix (low cost) instead of cable TV (high cost). Or if you're a book lover, there are plenty of ways to save money on books, especially if you can hold off on new releases and pick them up a few short weeks later on the cheap.

Join a group

Group buying sites like Groupon have become very popular. InBundles has good deals on eating out and activities in your area, says Fairbanks. Use websites like Freecycle and Ubarter to trade goods and services. Shorten agrees with this concept: "Joining free services such as Groupon can help get you deals on different types of services. I recently saw a 50 percent savings on a week of summer camp for my daughter."

Guard that nest egg

Having a savings account that grows automatically is a great way to build up your savings. Once you get started on your savings plan, make a vow to leave it alone and let it grow. Use cash more often and try to leave your credit cards at home. Unless you are able to pay the balance every month, the interest on those cards will eat away at any savings you've accumulated.

Practice makes perfect. Explore GetRichSlowly for more savings ideas.

Do you have any other great savings tips to add?

This Guide to Money answer includes the topics: Spend, Frugality.

Ana Gonzalez Ribeiro, MBA is a Personal Finance / Business Writer based in NYC

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