8 Great Money-Saving New Year's Resolutions

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8 Great Money-Saving New Year's Resolutions
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The start of the new year is a great time to give your personal finances a makeover. As you form your resolutions for a new and improved you, consider some financial resolutions that will help you save money and build up your reserves. With some perseverance and self-control, you can make your pocketbook as healthy as the rest of you.

Go on a One-Month Spending Diet
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Go on a One-Month Spending Diet

At the start of every new year, syndicated financial columnist Michelle Singletary encourages her friends to go on a one-month spending "fast" with strict parameters. Her diet forbids using credit cards for nonessential items. "The whole idea is to shut down your consumption button," she said. "If you only have $25, you will only spend $25."

Build a 'Life Happens' Fund
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Build a 'Life Happens' Fund

Everyone should have an emergency fund that can last you three to 12 months if you suddenly lose your job, Singletary said. But even if they have such a fund, many people regularly dip into it to pay for everyday expenses. Start creating a "life happens" fund with a goal of having $250 to $2,000 set aside to avoid dipping into emergency reserves. "So if your car breaks down or your dishwasher is busted, you can use your 'life happens' fund," Singletary said.

Eat at Home
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Eat at Home

Eating out takes a huge bite out of many people's budgets. Instead of heading to a restaurant, start cooking your meals more often. If you must eat out, save money by avoiding appetizers or drinks. "For a family of five, that can save $10 to $12 and most families eat out twice a month, so that's about $25 that could be put in your 'life happens' fund," Singletary said.

Create a Budget
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Create a Budget

Nobody likes to be on a budget, so it takes a mental flip to view a budget as a positive thing. Think about a budget as freedom instead of something that confines you. "A budget can tell you what you can and cannot do so you have a parameter, but not a rule," Singletary said. Start with a simple ledger that tracks money you bring in, spend and put in your regular savings, emergency and "life happens" funds, and it should equal zero -- no money left over, she said.

Build up Your Savings
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Build up Your Savings

Every time you get extra money, such as a birthday present or a bonus, put 10 percent of that into your main savings account, separate from your "life happens" or emergency fund, Singletary said. Consider also the general guideline that 33 percent to 36 percent of your paycheck should go toward housing expenses. "If you're spending 40 percent of your net paycheck on housing, it won't allow you to save and invest in the way you need," Singletary said.

Think Twice Before You Swipe
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Think Twice Before You Swipe

Whenever you go shopping, ask yourself if what you are buying is a "want" or a "need." Do this for everything from grocery items to clothing, and if it's not a "need," put it back on the shelf, she said.

Make Wallet-Friendly Reminders
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Make Wallet-Friendly Reminders

Motivate yourself by writing on a small card how much money you need to get out of debt or to fill your emergency or "life happens" funds. Keep the card in your wallet, Singletary advised, so that whenever you reach for money, you are reminded of your goals.

Avoid Sales
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Avoid Sales

Stand firm against sales gimmicks. Everyone loves a bargain, but few people consider that you never save when you spend money. "People will say, 'I'm saving 50 percent,' and I always say: 'You're not saving ... saving is the act of putting money into an account.'"

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