Learning to be smart with your money is a lifetime lesson — one that some of us struggle with more than others. The good news is, you’re not alone. “Many people are in the dark when it comes to money,” Suze Orman has often said, but there are certain financial habits that are shared among those who have successfully brought themselves into the financial light. Here are five easy-to-do habits you can begin to implement this month, and watch the savings grow… 1. Become a Coupon Clipper
It may seem like a tedious task, but coupon clipping is the way to go. In fact, American consumers are using coupons now more than ever, as 3.3 billion coupons were redeemed last year, according to Inmar, a coupon-processing and tracking agency. The average coupon printed is for a savings of $1.44. During your weekly trips to the grocery store, it’s easy to pick up 25 items, so why not spend that extra 10 minutes to cut or print out coupons for the items you use the most. You could save $36 the next time you go shopping for those 25 items! Check out Couponcabin.com or Couponmom.com for quick savings and coupons for popular items. 2. Track Your Spending
“I find that if I track what I’m spending, it encourages me to do better with my finances,” writes Shawna Martell, founder of Couponladyonline.com. It’s true: those who track their money are more likely to save each month. If spending is closely monitored, it is easier to know best where savings can be found. Sign up for money tracking tools at Mint.com, where you can keep track of all of your accounts in one location. The best part — if there’s an area where you can save money, Mint.com will recommend a solution for you. That’s easy savings you didn’t even have to look for! 3. Buy Generic
If you’ve heard this one before, it’s because it works. Consumers willing to bypass those pricier brands for the generic store brand not only get a quality product but also save 30 percent of the cost, according to a survey released last month by Consumer Reports. “For a family that spends $100 a week on groceries, the savings could add up to more than $1,500 a year,” says Tod Marks, an editor at Consumer Reports. Next time you make a trip to your local drugstore, stock up on generic laundry detergent or cold medicine, as you’re likely to purchase a high quality product and save more than a third of the cost. 4. Become a Cash Queen
Swiping a credit or debit card is a convenient way to make your purchases, but in the end, you may find yourself swiping for things you really didn’t need. An easy way to save money is to keep cash on hand. The trick — leave your debit and credit cards at home and vow only to use the cash you have on hand. When ATMs aren’t easy to access and you have no other alternative, you’re likely to find yourself holding off on purchasing that extra pair of black pumps in the store window until you have the cash available to buy them. If you can keep this up for a month, you might actually see savings upwards of 20 percent, according to ABCnews.com, not to mention the money you’ll save in credit and debit card fees. 5. Do Treat Yourself
The key to being a savvy saver is managing your funds wisely and spending them on things that you need — and yes — some of what you want. If you set a savings goal to buy that amazing Gucci purse or this season’s hottest pair of Christian Louboutins, you’ll actually save more in the future by having rewarded yourself. You’ll see the benefits of your savings and make a habit of doing it more regularly; those amazing stilettos are actually positive reinforcement. Saving wisely and splurging on yourself every once in a while will reaffirm that you’ve become a keen saver who knows how to spend their money wisely – especially when you have extra money to spend! For more tips on financial freedom visit ESSENCE’s Women’s Conference, click here.