5 Personal Finance Resolutions to Save Money Fast

Flattening your wallet may be easier than dropping those extra pounds this year.

I Won’t Throw Food Money Out with the Trash

The average American family of four tosses out about $2,275 worth of food every year, according to a 2012 study by the National Resources Defense Council. Planning weekly meals, buying from bulk bins at amounts you need, and avoiding impulse buys and marketing gimmicks (like two-for-one deals on items your family doesn’t even like) will reduce costs and food waste. You can safely eat most foods past “sell by” and “use by” dates, which are manufacturer suggestions, aren’t federally regulated, and don’t indicate safety (except on certain baby foods). Freeze fresh produce and leftovers. If you can’t abide leftovers, be smart about portion control. The NIH Portion Distortion site offers great tips.

I’ll Keep Better Tax Records

Forget that shoebox full of paper. Try shoeboxed.com instead to digitize receipts and store them online. Go right to the source with the IRS2Go (irs.gov) app, which offers tax-prep tips and tools—issued daily during tax-filing season. Idonatedit.com stores pictures of donated goods, estimates their value, keeps a running total, and lets you e-mail it to your accountant.

I’ll Stop Wasting Health-Care Dollars

Don’t think you can’t save money on health care, because you can. Make the most of your insurance by staying in network. And don’t skimp on screenings, immunizations, and other services your plan may provide, like discounted gym memberships and wellness classes. Use generic drugs whenever possible. Ask your doctor if an outpatient procedure can be scheduled at an ambulatory surgical center instead of a hospital. Take advantage of flexible spending accounts, which allow employees to set aside a portion of earnings to pay for qualified medical expenses. The money isn’t subject to payroll taxes, but you have to use it in the calendar year, or else you lose it.

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I’ll Be a Smarter Shopper

Technology can make you a magna cum laude shopper. Apps like the one at couponsherpa.com mean no clipping (unless you want to—it offers printable coupons too). Redlaser.com’s app uses bar codes to help you compare prices at nearby stores as well as online. Shopsavvy.com, also bar code driven, lets you compare prices and deals, too, as well as access customer reviews, tips, and coupon codes. If you’re shopping for electronics, the Decide app (decide.com) tells you the best time to buy that flat-screen TV. And gasbuddy.com will find you the best price per gallon near your location.

I’ll Make a Budget and Stick to It

Consider a zero-based budget, in which every dollar of income is earmarked for specific outlays, such as mortgage, food, savings, and entertainment. Every month, income minus outgo equals zero. Folks who use zero-based budgeting pay off 19 percent more debt and save 18 percent more bucks than those who don’t, according to Dave Ramsey, author of The Total Money Makeover. Budget extra for groceries the first few months (you spend more than you think). For help, try sites like mint.com, buxfer.com, and schwabmoneywise.com.

Sources: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delaware, money.cnn.com, time.com, dailyfinance.com, govtech.com, bankrate.com

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