Personal Finance

10 New Year’s Resolutions That Can Save You Money

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Whether it’s responsible money management, weight loss or a healthier lifestyle, New Year’s resolutions usually become a thing of the past by February when the holiday festivities are over, the dust has settled and life is back to normal.

However, with a little determination and consistency, resolutions can help you save $1,000 or much more.

1. Implement a new shopping strategy

Next time you plan to head out to grab a few items, be sure to comparison shop at a minimum of three stores that carry each item. To save time, do this online.

Another way to save big is by shopping during off-peak periods. If you typically spend $1,000 on winter clothing and then make the decision to shop the smart way, markdowns that average 40% will yield cost savings of at least $400 on your transactions.

Total annual savings: $400.

2. Develop a spending plan

If created and implemented correctly, a budget will reveal weak areas and force you to live within your means. However, only 32% of Americans prepare a monthly budget that tracks their income and expenses, according to a Gallup poll. That leaves 68% of consumers who may have no real way to assess their finances and incorporate more responsible spending habits.

One possible outcome is overdraft fees. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that consumers who have at least one overdraft a year average $225 a year in overdraft fees. The average overdraft fee is $30.

Total annual savings: $225.

3. Get out of debt

About half the families who have credit cards carry a balance. And luckily, because of the Credit CARD Act, your statement now tells you how long it will take to pay off that debt if you make only the minimum payment each month.

What if you owe $2,800 on your card and have a 12% interest rate? The Federal Reserve credit card repayment calculator says that if you don’t add any new charges to the card and make only the $56 minimum payment, it will take you 14 years to pay off the card and cost you $2,194 in interest.

Don’t fall victim to this trap. Instead, develop a debt-management plan that can be executed with funds allocated from your budget. You can pay off that debt in a year with a monthly payment of $249 and pay only $186 in interest.

Total savings: $2,008.

4. Plan your meals

When making the grocery list for the week, plan your meals around the sales and corresponding coupons that are available. Since couponing can be time-consuming, you can also try eliminating a few items from your list or substituting generics to save at least $20 per week.

Total annual savings: $1,040.

5. Reduce budget busters

The little luxuries may seem inexpensive and worthwhile, but they add up rather quickly. Try cutting variable expenses, such as coffee drinks, smoking, gym memberships and cable TV. Shaving down your $3 caffeinated beverage from five to two cups per week can save you up to $468 per year. On the other hand, if you cut out that $55 monthly gym membership and seek free alternatives, you can save up to $660.

Total annual savings: $1,128.

6. Scrap the loyalty

Switching to Geico (or any other insurance company) may or may not save you money, but it’s definitely worth looking into. Even if you have been with one car insurance company for years, use online comparison tools and shop around to find the most competitive rate.

Total annual savings: $100 to $300.

7. Load up the rainy-day fund

Failing to have a sufficient emergency fund in place is the easiest way to enter and remain in debt land. To put things into perspective, if you charge $600 for a set of new tires to a credit card with an interest rate of 16.9% and a minimum payment of $20 per month, you will end up paying $186 in interest over the course of three years.

Total savings: $186.

8. Adopt a healthier lifestyle

Not only is an active and healthier lifestyle beneficial to your well-being, but it also helps out your pocketbook because the need for prescribed medications, physician visits and treatments may also dwindle.

Total savings: $500 to $1,000.

9. Cut the booze

There’s nothing wrong with an occasional night out with the guys or gals, but beware of the bar. Consuming alcoholic beverages in public venues can be quite costly, particularly if you go when it’s not happy hour. And let’s not even consider what getting a DUI could cost you.

Total annual savings: $180 to $15,000.

10. Renegotiate your debts

It never hurts to call around to each of your creditors and attempt to have your interest rates lowered.

And how about refinancing your home? The savings from refinancing a $250,000 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage with a 5.5 percent interest rate will vary depending on the terms, but a monthly payment on a $250,000 loan at 4.5 percent is about $153 a month less.

Total annual savings: $1,836.

Even if you implement a few of these New Year’s resolutions in 2014, your wallet will thank you. What money-saving resolutions are on your list?

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