3 Financial Resolutions That Are Easy to Keep

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BarcodesYou're not going to win the lottery. You won't be videotaping your pet when it does something worthy of a viral video that will make you rich on YouTube. That fat inheritance that you've been banking on will be leaner than you think.

However, there are plenty of ways to make 2012 the year that you make smarter financial decisions. Using the technology at your fingertips, you can save some serious money this year. Instead of reaching for the stars, here are three small moves that can make tangible differences in your pocketbook.

1. Make your smartphone even smarter.

Few people actually need a smartphone, but there are ways to make back some of that investment if you use your phone to save money elsewhere.

Tim Beyers highlighted a few ways to cash in on your smartphone investment. Using messaging apps to sidestep costly texting charges and using free GPS navigation instead of buying a GPS device are two great ways to make back some of the money being spent on monthly wireless bills.

Another neat money-saving trick is to download one of the many barcode scanning apps. RedLaser, ShopSavvy, and even Amazon.com's (AMZN) own price-check application let you use your smartphone's camera to scan the barcode of a product you're thinking of buying. The apps then spit back cheaper alternatives available either locally or online.

2. Use the Internet to save even more.

You don't need a smartphone to make sure that you're not overpaying for stuff. Several comparison shopping sites -- like NexTag, mySimon, and Google's (GOOG) Product Search -- let you check prices from anywhere your Web-tethered computer may be. (Make sure you sort by the final shipped price to get an accurate price check.)

Don't stop there. Once you find what you want and where you want to buy it from, see if you can get it even cheaper through cash-back and reward websites. FatWallet and MyPoints are just two of the many sites where ordering from select online retailers will result in a small percentage of the transaction being returned to you in the form of cash-back rebates or points that can be exchanged for gift cards.

Next, smoke out some promotion codes on the Internet. Whenever you find yourself at an online retailer's checkout screen, only to find a box asking if you have a coupon code, open a new browser window and see if something is available. RetailMeNot and CouponFollow are just some of the sites specializing in this juicy niche. Or, if you think the coupon you got in the mail from that national pizzeria chain isn't much of a deal, see if RetailMeNot has a better deal that isn't being actively promoted in your area, but will be accepted.

Don't let these sites limit your pool of potential retailers, but by all means lean on them if it's where you were planning to shop anyway.

3. Hop off the Groupon bandwagon.

After nearly two years of buying Groupon (GRPN) and LivingSocial deals, it's become clear that buying deals on a whim isn't always the smartest move. (Surely I can't be the only one who impulsively bought a deal for a so-so eatery at the other end of town or a touristy experience that expired worthless. Time flies, even for bargain seekers.)

With a little legwork, you don't have to feel hog-tied to a half-priced spa treatment that you don't need or a Segway tour that you no longer really care about. There are daily deal exchanges cropping up for folks to swap their deals before they expire. In some cases, buyers can get back what they paid for lapsed vouchers in the form of site credit.

But even that's not always an option. So in 2012, vow to think before you get your Groupon on. Every deal isn't a bargain in the long run.

Longtime Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any of the stocks in this article. The Motley Fool owns shares of Amazon.com and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google and Amazon.com.


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