Five things you can do today to curb your spending and bulk up your savings account.

You tell yourself things will be different this time. Last time? You weren’t ready. You weren’t dedicated. Not like this time. This time, you’ll stick to your budget – no matter what. This time, there’s no stopping you. You give yourself pep talks in the bathroom mirror. I’m a lean, mean, money-saving machine, you say to your reflection. And when you say it, you mean it.

And then, life happens. Tires wear out -- all four of them, at the same time. Of course. Gas prices go up. So do grocery prices. Your roof starts leaking. The holidays arrive, much sooner than you expected. (They snuck in the back door while you were busy checking on the leaky roof.)

And you never do get that raise at work.

Pretty soon, you’re dipping into your savings account to cover extra expenses. You start to think that maybe next time will be different. That tough-talking, money-saving machine in the mirror is gone; replaced by a broke schlub in a pink bathrobe.

Okay, your bathrobe might not be pink. But you see where I’m going with this. It’s not easy to build up your savings – especially when you don’t have any savings to begin with.

The thing is, there’s never going to be a “good” time to start saving money. Things are always going to come up. But there are lots of easy, relatively painless things you can do to help jumpstart your savings. And today, I’m sharing five of my favorites.

1. Set up an automatic bank transfer. You’ve heard countless financial gurus say it: Pay yourself first. As a concept, it sounds easy. Really, how long does it take to move, say $50 from your checking to your savings account? But the problem is, we forget. We postpone. We write ourselves IOU’s and make excuses. That’s the beauty of automatic transfers – we don’t have to think about them. They just happen. Almost every bank allows you to schedule a monthly checking-to-savings transfer. You’ll probably never miss that extra $50.

And to make sure you don’t transfer it right back out again, ask your bank to take your savings account off of your online banking. If they can’t, you may even consider opening your savings account at a different bank. If you don’t see the money, it’s much less tempting.

2. Stop using your credit cards. Seriously. For many Americans out there, debt is the biggest roadblock on the road to financial freedom. Whether you owe $100 or $10,000, the first step to getting out of debt is to stop using your credit card – you don’t want the balance to get any bigger. Then, concentrate on paying down your debt. (You can check out the other articles in this blog for self-help tips, and other helpful resources.)

3. Change your spending habits. If you want to save money, you have to cut back on some of your favorite indulgences – eating takeout four nights a week, hitting the sale racks at your favorite department store, going out on the town every Saturday night. If you cut down to dining out one or two times a week and spending more nights at home, you might be able to save an extra $100 every month. Of course, it’s never easy to change your behavior. (Anyone who’s ever gone on a diet knows that.) Make an effort to avoid temptation: Alter your route home to avoid passing the mall; stock your pantry with your favorite healthy and easy-to-prepare foods; and break out the board games and DVDs on Saturday night.

4. Shop smarter. No matter how much you tighten your budget, you still have to eat. And you still have to buy the mundane stuff: Toilet paper. Laundry soap. Mouthwash. But there are lots of ways to save at the grocery store. Before you go shopping, make a list and stick to it. No extras. Don’t buy in bulk unless doing so actually saves you money. Go for the store brand instead of the national brand – and don’t be fooled by coupons. In some cases, the store brand is still a better deal than a name brand with a coupon.

5. Talk to your friends and family. Most things in life are easier when you’ve got a solid support network. Ask your best friend to be your “savings buddy” and share your favorite frugal-living strategies. Explain to your family that you’re on a budget. Use this as an opportunity to suggest alternatives for over-the-top gift giving or extravagant (and expensive) family gatherings. Chances are, you’re not the only one trying to beef up your savings. And if you feel uncomfortable talking about your financial situation, put a positive spin on things: you’re saving for a second honeymoon, your kids’ college tuition, or your retirement home in the mountains.

See? Easy and somewhat painless. Even if you start with only two or three of these things, you’ll be on the road to a brighter financial future, with savings in the bank and no debt.

And this time, you will be ready. Of course, if it helps, you can still give yourself a good pep talk in the bathroom mirror.

Author's Bio: 

© 2010 Mike Peterson, Debt Management Expert, Certified Credit Counselor, author of "Reality Millionaire: Proven Tips To Retire Rich" and co-founder of the American Credit Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit consumer credit counseling organization that helps through education, counseling, and debt management plans. For more info, and free consumer resources visit: DebtGuru.com