5 Tips to save money in the new year

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PHOENIX -- One of the most popular New Year's resolutions is to get physically fit, but what about getting financially fit? Financial expert Sharon Lechter shared some tips to help you do just that and save money in 2012.

"The best resolution you can make is to become master of your money instead of a slave to your money," Lechter said.

1. Find your starting point.

"My father used to say, 'A map doesn't do you any good if you don't know where you are and where you're going,'" Lechter said. Look at exactly where your money is going and chances are you will find some easy place to save a few dollars. Small changes add up in the long run.

2. Eliminate extra charges.

Take a close look at your credit-card and bank statements to make sure you're not paying for things you shouldn't be. Ask about bank fees. Sometimes banks will waive them if you simply ask. If they don’t, consider taking your business elsewhere. Pay close attention to any automatic payments you have set up. Also scrutinize your car and homeowner's or renter's insurance. Now is a good time to get new quotes. Also, ask for discounts on services and goods. It can't hurt and it certainly can save you money.

3. Use the two-minute rule.

This is a good one for impulsive shoppers. If you see something you want when you're out shopping, set it down and walk away for two minutes. If you still want it after that. Go back and get.

"During those two minutes, sanity kind of comes back in, and you start thinks about whether you really want it, if you really need it," Lechter explained. "I know it works. It's a way for you to take control and become master of your money again."

4. Use rewards.

Look at Groupon, Living Social and Yollar and frequent places where you get a benefit for being a loyal customer.

5. Expand your means.

Instead of saying, "I can't afford it," Lechter suggests you shift your thinking to ask "How can I afford it?"

"Find ways to make more money so that you can enjoy and earn the life that you want," Lechter said.

If you want to stay informed, make use of trusted free resources such as www.feedthepig.org or www.360financialliteracy.org to brush up on legislative initiatives to get the most out of your taxes.  For more information, visit www.payyourfamilyfirst.com.