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Making the most of your money is more important than ever. That's why we partnered with Northwestern Mutual to help you achieve financial success.

Everyone has a different definition of financial success, but the overall goal is to have more money saved than you do right now. Taking a closer look at your spending habits is crucial to achieving personal goals, whatever life stage you're in. But there's no need for it to be a dramatic and bothersome experience. Here's how to make small changes today that will leave you feeling positive about making smart life choices.

1. Set attainable short-term goals to make it fun

The first thing I think about when someone says "saving" is how annoying and boring it feels to cut back on everything. But when you create a plan for how you're spending, it seriously pays off. Once you determine what's important, making a couple of basic, short-term goals will get you moving in the right direction. Everyone is different, so be creative! If you successfully save $50 the first week, treat yourself to an at-home manicure. It's a beautiful pick-me-up and budget-friendly!

2. Become financially knowledgeable, and take informed risks

It's so important to not get overwhelmed with jargon like risk management, wealth preservation, or duration. Reaching out to a financial expert for an education on financial terms will help you make the right decisions for your long-term goals. Once you change your mindset to being a learner of all things financial, you'll start seeing bigger changes in your savings account. And there's nothing wrong with asking for help — a good financial professional is there to answer questions and make it easy to understand!

3. Take advantage of financial freebies

One of the smallest changes that can bring about the greatest financial confidence is to take a closer look at benefits that are available through your job and learn more about programs that you should be taking advantage of. From your 401(k) plan to commuter or health benefits, there are ways to save money while investing in your future straight through your paycheck. And there might be other perks you're missing, like discounts on gym memberships or incentives for furthering your education. You can also take a look at freebies you can get through other areas, like bonus points through your credit card.

4. Save big on small lifestyle tweaks

You love that coffeehouse morning mocha along with the ease of jumping in a taxi, but cutting perks from your everyday life is one change that can benefit you big time. Challenge yourself to give up one thing a week that you normally splurge on and invest that amount back into yourself. See how much you can save with one or two small changes, then double the dollar amount each week. Once you make those changes, you'll see how new habits can benefit you in the future.

5. Leave your credit card at home

One of the smartest changes you can make today is setting a budget and sticking with it; then, automate all of your payments. Once that's set, you wont have to worry about late fees, and you're already budgeted for payments. This gives you a bigger picture of where your basic spending leaves you. And instead of grabbing your credit card, leave it at home and opt to use cash. It may seem old school, but counting out bills and handing over cash makes the spend feel more real, and you'll put more thought into things like whether you should open a tab or just pay for that one cocktail upfront.

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At Northwestern Mutual, we believe there are two halves to consider to achieve financial security: Protect and Grow. Instead of focusing on insurance or investments alone, we bring them together into one whole picture to help you Live Life Differently®. Also, be sure to visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

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