Illustration: Kagan McLeod

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Michelle Singletary, "The Color of Money" Columnist for The Washington Post
Do This Now: Challenge yourself with a 21-day financial fast, during which you eliminate all spending except for the bare essentials. Halting unnecessary purchases forces you to reflect on how much you consume.

Do This Soon: Keep a spending journal for 30 days. A month's worth of data makes it easier to see where you can cut back.