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6 Ways to Get Yourself Off to a Financially Fit New Year

David Bakke is a contributor for MoneyCrashers.com, where he shares tips for reaching your long-term financial goals and keeping your New Year’s resolutions [3].

With the New Year already upon us, now is the time to make some changes in your personal finances. You may very well face a tax increase in the near future, and with a continuously slumping economy, you can never be too careful. In order to protect yourself in the face of financial uncertainty, here are five tasks to complete in 2013:

1. Reduce Credit Card Debt
The average American carries nearly $7,000 in credit card debt. If you currently owe anywhere near (or exceeding) that level, now is the time to eliminate credit card debt. It may be easier than it sounds – cut back on your personal spending, and use your extra savings to apply to your debts until they are gone for good.

2. Establish an Emergency Fund
Establishing an emergency fund is crucial in today’s economic environment. You never know what major financial setbacks or expenses are on the horizon, such as a car repair or an unforeseen medical emergency. Try to set aside six months’ worth of living expenses, and you’ll have the peace of mind that you can weather any financial storm.

3. Create a Personal Budget
If you don’t have a complete understanding of your current financial situation, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to achieve your financial goals. Examine your monthly income, and compare it to your monthly expenses. If you’re not spending less than you’re making, get yourself on a tight personal budget, and cut back however possible.

4. Institute or Boost Retirement Savings
This year, boost your 401k contributions, and make sure you’re contributing the maximum to your IRA. Your budget might be tight, but the more that you can set aside for the future, the better off you’ll be.

5. Reduce Your Monthly Bills
Take a close look at all of your monthly bills – there’s a very good chance that some hidden fees have appeared that you’ve not noticed. If you see any, contact the provider to have them eliminated. If the provider refuses to budge on the unnecessary charges, threaten to switch companies – this may get them to change their tune.

6. Earn Money on the Side
Instead of playing online or posting on Facebook, find ways to generate income in your spare time. You can sell unneeded old gadgets, such as digital cameras and cellphones, on eBay or Amazon – and if you have any old college textbooks on hand, sell those too. It’s a great opportunity to get some of your money back. You can also fill out paid surveys online. You won’t make a ton of cash, but any extra income is better than none.

Final Thoughts
You may also want to consider organizing your finances in 2013. Implement a basic filing system, and create files for each of your monthly bills, credit cards, investments, and taxes. This makes it much easier if you have to do a little research, and filing your return for state and federal income taxes will be easier as well.

What other ways can you suggest to save money in the new year?

(Photo: sacharules [4])