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The dawn of a new year is a great time to reassess your savings goals to stay on the right track — or create a plan from scratch — for a more financially sound future. If your savings aren’t where you want them to be, you’re not alone. In 2019, the Federal Reserve found that four out of 10 Americans would be unable to pay an unexpected $400 bill out of their savings.
One of the best ways to save is to open a separate account at your financial institution and create a monthly (or more often) electronic transfer to move some money from your checking account into the savings account. The real key here is to get it out of your checking account so you can’t spend it.
Bump up retirement savings
Increase your 401(k) or other retirement account contribution by 1%, or a little more if you can swing it. This does two things: It lowers your taxable income for the new year, and it helps you sock away more for the future.
Go to the pros
If you do your own taxes, make sure to use tax software or seek the services of a professional tax preparer who will alert you to all of the ways you can save more on your annual tax bill. The fees for the tax prep or software are also deductible on the next year’s taxes.
Challenge your property tax bill
It’s estimated that as much as two-thirds of all real estate is over-assessed, though most people never go through the trouble of challenging their bills. If you live in a state where property taxes are high, consider hiring an attorney to dispute your assessment if you think it has increased unrealistically over time. Many attorneys will do this on a contingency basis — i.e., you only pay them if they win you a reduction — charging you a percentage of what they save you.
Shop around for better insurance rates
Thanks to technology, you don’t have to leave your house to get a better deal on home and auto insurance. And chances are, if you haven’t shopped rates in the last year, you are probably paying more than you need to. Insurance experts say the best way to get a better rate is to change insurers or at least find a better deal online and see if your agent can meet it or beat it.
Cook more meals at home
You can save a ton of money and maybe even get a little healthier by cooking meals at home. Once the dishes are done, make sure to store the leftovers in individual containers to make it easier to bring your delicious leftovers to work. Or, freeze individual or family-size servings so you can cook once and eat twice!
Compare prescription prices
Not every pharmacy in your town charges the same amount for the same prescription drugs. It may take a little time, but it pays to shop around by calling several pharmacies to see what the price is for your monthly medication. And before you pay, ask if there are any coupons for the drugs you are buying. You should also check to see if the prescription would be cheaper without an insurance plan. And when you are at your doctor’s office, ask about free samples and coupons for brand-name medications. You should also see if the generic drug works just as well.
Save your change
This may sound seriously old-school, but you would be amazed at how much you can save by just emptying the coins (and small bills) from your pockets or purse each evening into a designated container to save for something, such as a vacation.
– Jean Chatzky; SavvyMoney
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