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New Year's Resolution: How to Stretch Your Dollar in 2014

January 23, 2014

Almost everyone wants to save more money, and the New Year is a great time for reviewing your financial goals. You don't need advice on how to spend less - you already know that sacrificing meals out and shopping for new clothes less frequently can save money. But there are other ways to be smart about your finances and watch your savings grow in 2014.

Pay Yourself First
On payday, budget for your savings like it's just another bill. Open a separate account for your goal – whether it's an emergency fund, vacation, retirement, or a big luxury purchase – and set up an automatic transfer so you're not even tempted to touch it.

Ignore Your Raise
Instead of spending your extra income from a salary increase, consider putting it toward your savings goal. Boost the amount of your automatic transfer.

Use and Maximize Flexible Spending Accounts
If your employer offers it, sign up for a flexible spending account. It allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars from your paycheck to cover out-of-pocket medical and child care costs. If you already have a flex spending account and have cash left from 2013, check to see if you can use it through March 2014. Some allow that grace period so you won't leave money on the table.

Make Credit Cards Rewarding
One obvious money-saving tip is to avoid excessive credit card use. If you do use a credit card, aim to pay off your balance in full each month. A rewards credit card will compensate you with cash back, airline miles or points that can be traded in for some other benefit every time you use the card. Resist the urge to overspend just to receive the reward. That's one way to accrue debt that becomes harder to pay off.

You might be able to save money each month if you refinance your auto loan or mortgage. Your community bank can be a great resource for options that give you a lower interest rate.

Don't Give Up If the struggle to save or pay off debt gets overwhelming, remember that many people are in the same boat. Use the resources at your disposal for advice and guidance on getting your financial year off on the right foot. Keep your money goals in sight – and keep them realistic! – and you'll see the small steps add up to big dividends.

James Oosterman is the Vice President of Melrose Bank. He can be reached by telephone 781-665-2500, online at or on Facebook at

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