Three financial tips for new year

By Steve Bucci Bankrate.com

Be aware of spending traps: Certainly, most of us have no problem spending money. And retailers know it. They’ll make you walk through the entire store to buy a gallon of milk, hoping that you’ll be enticed to throw other items in your cart. And when you check out, the candy is, of course, down low at your kid’s eye level. To gain control over your finances, I want you to be aware of spending traps like these. Stick to your shopping list. If it’s not on the list, think twice before you buy it. You can take this a little further by setting a budget for discretionary items. For example, you might allocate a certain amount of money for entertainment, and then purposely decide when and how you will spend those dollars.

Put that bonus somewhere else: It can be hard to save money, especially if your budget is tight already. You can make it easier by focusing your savings on any raises, promotions or other windfalls that come your way. If you place half of any of that extra cash into savings, you’ll be able to build your nest egg without hurting your current budget. And if you have it automatically withdrawn, you won’t even see it. Bankrate’s calculators can show you how much your savings will be worth if you invest it. With the other half, you can add to your discretionary income and spend on purpose.

Make a financial resolution — and keep it: I don’t care what it is. The important thing is to have one, to be successful with it and let it build your financial confidence. Write down your resolution and place it somewhere in sight. You might save it as your wallpaper on your computer or phone. Place a copy of it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Put your resolution any place where you will be reminded on a daily basis of your commitment. Some of my favorite suggestions for resolutions are:

Check one of your credit reports from each of the major credit bureaus every four months. Dispute any incorrect information.

Improve your credit score by 20 points or more.

Commit to saving a set amount of money.

Pay off one debt that you have been carrying for more than six months.