Our Consumer Watch Team has found 10 things you can do to make your life easier and hopefully happier.
1. Review your credit report. After all, you can get one free copy a year from each of the three reporting agencies. You can get your free report at annual credit report-dot-com.
2. Pay down debt The faster you can eliminate debt, the more money you'll have in your budget.
3. Make a monthly budget, and not just the reoccurring expenses like your house payment, groceries and utilities.Budget spending money and set aside an emergency fund for things like car and home repairs.
4. Consider refinancing your mortgage. If you can qualify, interest rates at the end of 2011 were at record lows for those with good credit. If you can trim a percentage point off your current mortgage, it's probably worth it, as long as you expect to be in your home a few more years.
5. Review insurance policies. You want to make sure you're covered in case of a major loss. Make a home inventory and take into consideration upgrades you've done to your home that would increase the value.
6. Dump big fee banks. There are plenty of banks with free checking - carefully read the bank's policies and research their products
7. Change your passwords. Cyber-security becomes a more pressing issue every year. Hackers use all sorts of sophisticated tricks to compromise password-protected accounts. That's why its a good idea to resolve to change all of your passwords in the new year.
8. Avoid free offers. Everyone likes the idea of getting something for free, but the hard truth is very few things - and almost nothing on the Internet - is really free. There is always a catch, which usually results in a monthly charge to your credit or debit card.
9. Travel smart. Travel has become both more unpleasant and costly. Consumers can save money and aggravation by changing some travel habits. First, avoid third party travel sites that supposedly offer bargains on hotels and airfare. If you have to change your travel plans, often you are unable to get a refund. Also, since the third party site is acting as a middle-man between you and the hotel or airline, it increases the possibility of mistakes.
10. Take care of your car. Getting more miles out of your vehicle is a great way to save money, especially if your car is already paid for.