With the holidays behind you, now is the perfect time to give yourself a gift. Make a resolution to save more money this year. These five tips will help you trim spending, beef up savings, and reduce stress--just in time for the New Year.

  1. Pay it off. Pay off your credit cards to save money. Let's say you have a $2,000 balance at 18% interest. If your minimum payment is 2% of the balance due each month, it will take you 19 years to pay it off and you'll incur $3,862 in interest. But if you increase your monthly payments to 8% of the balance due--much more than the minimum--you'll reduce the payback time from 19 years to three years and nine months, and your interest costs now are only $433. You've just "saved" $3,429. 
  2. Conserve. Small changes yield big savings on your utility bill:
    * Properly insulate all ducts.
    * Use programmable thermostats. Turn your thermostat back 10% to 15% for eight hours each day during the winter to save as much as 10% a year on your energy bill.
    * Use ceiling fans to reduce both cooling and heat bills.
  3. So what's a buck? Grab a calculator. Add up what you spend on so-called "little things" that end up being budget-busters: 
    * If you spend $1.00 a day--seven days a week--on soda, that adds up to $365 a year.
    * If you spend $1.75 a day--every weekday--on coffee, that's $455 a year.
    * If you spend $3.75 a day--every weekday--on fast food, that's $975 a year.
    * If you spend $5 each day on cigarettes, that's $1,825 a year.
  4. Tune it up. Regular automobile maintenance--including low-cost oil changes, filter changes, and tire rotation--can save big bucks by preventing costly repairs. Keep your engine tuned and your tires inflated to their proper pressure. On the road, stay within posted speed limits because gas mileage decreases rapidly at speeds higher than 60 miles per hour. Avoid "jackrabbit" starts and unnecessary idling, combine errands, and remove excess weight from the trunk.
  5. Transfer it. Pay yourself first--set up automatic transfers to your share or money market account. Have your paycheck automatically deposited to your credit union account. Consider using direct bill payment from your share draft account for recurring payments like household bills, insurance premiums, automatic investment and savings plans, mortgage payments, auto loan payments, and charitable donations. Set up a Holiday Club Account. Take advantage of your employer's tax-advantaged retirement plan--both are painless, automatic deductions from each paycheck.

It all adds up!