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5 Ways You Can Start Being Frugal -- Pronto!

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By Brandhyze Stanley, Manilla.com

Ever find yourself thinking, "If only I made more money, all my financial woes would be over"? Well, let me be the first say that you are totally not alone in feeling that way -- not even close.

But along with that realization comes another somewhat harsh one: The truth is, if you were to continue your same spending habits past today, even with a bigger paycheck, you would soon find yourself in the same economic position, despite the fact that you have more money.

Yes, sad... but oh so true. If you've been living beyond your means with the money you make now and not earmarking anything for savings or tackling some of your amassed debt, your fate would have already been sealed.

So how do you change your outlook? Check out these five tips you can apply right away that will help you start being frugal -- and help you free up some cash to save.

1. Keep track.

Either on your phone or in a little notebook, write down every dime you spend for one whole month to figure out exactly where your money is going. That's right... every dime. It may sound tedious, but I'll tell you that I did this once, and it was totally eye-opening to see how much money was going toward lunch and snacks. Which brings me to my next point...

2. Make eating out the exception, not the rule.

"I don't have time to pack a lunch for work," you say. Well, if you're reading this, to that I say, "You don't have the budget NOT to." If I may borrow the words of the great financial guru Dave Ramsey, "For a little while you have to live like no one else, so later you can LIVE like NO ONE ELSE." For example, I know that during months where I grocery shopped and ate something from home 3 times a day, my meal-to-cost ratio averaged less than $3, rather than the $5 to $14 it would have cost me to eat out or have something delivered.

3. Entertain in.

Love hanging out with friends but don't have the budget for dinner and drinks? Host game nights with your friends at your place, and have everyone bring a snack. Yes, it requires a little planning, but your wallet will thank you. Use sites like evite to lock down the logistics and stock up on stuff like plates, cups and napkins at the dollar store. You'll get to spend some quality time with some of your favorite folks and give your wallet a little break.

4. Avoid credit or debit card fees.

I'm a freelancer who doesn't know what will be in my account month to month, so I'm not the poster child for automatic payment withdrawals. However, using apps like Manilla's Online Account and Bill Organizer will alert you when to pay your bills so you won't forget and incur late fees.

5. Check in every six months.

Companies like your cell phone carrier or Internet and cable providers are constantly changing their specials and deals, but if they already have you at a higher rate, they aren't going to call you up necessarily to beg to save YOU money -- that's your job. So, every six months or so, call them to see what new deals are available for the services you receive.

For example, because I'm an actor, I was able to lower my cell phone bill a whole $30 -- that's an extra $360 I get to keep in my pocket by the end of the year. Or, I was recently speaking with my cable and Internet provider, and my bill was about to go from $168 to $191 -- insane, I know. But after spending about 40 minutes on the phone (I had some other questions, too), I not only got my bill down to $157, but I also got some new extra channels and services to boot as a part of a new promotion.

Brandhyze Stanley is a frugal-living expert and contributor at Manilla.com, the leading, free and secure service that lets consumers manage all of their bills and accounts in one place online and via mobile apps. She is also the chief voice of Frugal-nomics.com, a platform designed to share with women how to live and look fabulous on a dime -- created after a massive unexpected layoff forced her to hone in on her true passion.

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