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Five Money Saving Ways to Start the New Year Right

By (view all posts by brwood)
at 8:54AM Wednesday January 4, 2012
under Personal Finance

Happy New Year everyone! It's only the 3rd and I'm sure some of you have already given up on resolutions made three days ago. I have not, but only because I never make life changing pronouncements due to arbitrary dates on the calendar. There are however certain things that are easier to do at the end/beginning of the year than at any other time.
So then here are my 5 ways to start the year off on the right foot, as far as your finances are concerned.

1) Clean out the closets, attics, basements and garages and donate items or throw them away. For the sake of organization, it's best to clear out and donate items to charity before the end of the year. Donate them in January and you have to keep track of that receipt for more than a year before tax time rolls around again.

2) Consider your cell phone, cable and internet plans and see if there is a better one available. No reason to do this at the start of the year, but no reason not to either. A review of my TV viewing habits has me thinking I would do just fine with streaming Netflix and a set of rabbit ears, which would save me $40 a month. Additionally I can save at least $5 a month if I pay AT&T for a text messaging plan. I could save even more by switching carriers, but I'm on a contract until next year.

3) Clean out the kitchen/fridge - Have any old food in there past edibility? Why did you buy it in the first place? The beginning of the year is a great time to start buying only what's on your grocery list, and maybe keeping a food diary for a month or so. You can save even more money by knowing when you are likely to run out of stuff and minimizing trips to the market.

4) Use that gym membership, or lose it - I know I pay $20 a month for mine and that likely works out to $5 a visit over the past three months. I'm not sure how I would go about cancelling it--not even sure its possible. I am sure however that I could use some exercise, so maybe I ought to start going more often until it's $1-2 a visit.

5) Actually look at your 401K and credit card statements - Looking at these too often just leads to anxiety and sleepless nights, but you ought to look over this stuff at least once a year. See how your 401K funds are doing and reallocate if its below average. Look at how much you are paying in interest on your credit cards and see if you can do better. If your credit is good, it may be time to transfer balances to a more favorable card--or shuffle balances between two cards you already have and pay off one completely if you can. Don't fall into the "0% for 6 months" trap then end up with yet another credit card that you max out at the first opportunity.

So there you have it. Five things to do that will make next holiday season even brighter. Feel free to blow any money you save over the course of the year on nice presents for loved ones, its one of the few ways money can actually buy happiness. The look on a kid's, spouse's, or parent's face is always worth it.