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Ten steps to fiscal fitness in 2013
WASHINGTON (1/15/13)--As the new year gains momentum, many consumers enact resolutions involving personal finances--potentially complicated by anticipated tax-law and other regulatory changes.  Whatever your goals, this uncertainty behooves you to be as fiscally savvy as possible (U.S. News & World Report Dec. 20).

Here are 10 tips to help you keep your financial resolutions:

  1. Shop for bargains all year and don't be afraid to negotiate for discounts.  Many retailers offered price-matching last year, and that may continue. Think before you buy. Do you need it? Could you borrow it?
  1. Make money decisions with your partner. Agree on spending priorities and you can invest in what you both value.
  1. Pay down debt. Sizable debt can seem insurmountable; if you pay a small amount of money regularly to the highest-rate bills, you'll slowly see your debt shrink.
  1. Ensure you're saving enough for retirement. Use one of the many online calculators to estimate how much you'll need and determine if you should bump up your 401(k) or other retirement account contributions. Examine how your money is invested and adjust the mix if needed.
  1. Find a better credit card. If yours has high rates or fees, shop for a better deal: Credit unions typically offer better terms. If you have a card with rewards points, make sure you use them.
  1. Find a better financial institution. If yours provides shoddy service at high prices, switch. Nonprofit, member-owned credit unions exist to improve your financial life, so consider joining one if you're not already a member.
  1. Earn more. Ask for a raise or, if your income has plateaued at your job, think about taking on a second job or about becoming an entrepreneur and starting a new business. Talk to your financial adviser first so you have a sound business model.
  1. Stay home. Cooking meals, playing games, watching movies--Hulu Plus, Apple TV and the like are more affordable than theaters--are inexpensive fun.  Making home improvements that increase efficiency can save money while making your abode more comfortable. Be sure your homeowners insurance covers all eventualities as well.
  1. Talk about money with your kids. You play a significant role in how your children handle money and make financial decisions, so share your wisdom with them. Involve them in family decision-making and talk about saving, spending, giving and borrowing. Show them online money sites like the Credit Union National Association's Googolplex, which include fun articles, games and activities to help teach kids about money management.
  1. Use less gas. Of course you'll frequent the lowest priced gas station around, but also lighten your vehicle by removing heavy items from the trunk. Inflating your tires to the proper levels and replacing clogged air filters will improve mileage per gallon, and carpooling lets you share costs. Take public transportation, bike, or walk when you can.
These are just a few money-wise tips for this year; if you examine your goals and daily activities, you'll likely find many more. Save your extra cash in your credit union account for unforeseen expenses and you're ready to handle any financial uncertainty 2013 brings.

For more information, read "Credit counselors say resolutions not right for everyone" in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

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