Mechanical ratchets with dollars
You work hard for every dime in your paycheck; why not make your money work just as hard for you? The first step, of course, is holding on to more of it for long enough that you can put it to work.

So, here are six easy-to-implement moves to help you step up your savings a notch or two in 2014.
  1. The tax bands are adjusting for inflation; save the increase. All other things being equal, your first paycheck in 2014 will be slightly larger than your last paycheck of 2013, because the tax brackets shift every year due to an inflation adjustment. If you were covering your costs from your take-home pay before, you'll never miss the money if you sock away the increase.
  2. Make saving automatic. If you job offers you electronic deposit for your paycheck, see if you can get some of your check automatically deposited to a separate savings account. If not, then talk to your bank about setting up an automatic transfer, and then treat that transfer like a must-pay bill.
  3. Getting a raise? Save half of it. Salaries are expected to go up around 3 percent in 2014, and inflation over the past year has been around 1.2 percent. If that pattern holds true in 2014, and your raise is at least average, you ought to be able to save around half of the after-tax part of it without any impact to your standard of living.
  4. Negotiate the interest rates on your credit card debt. If you've got a good payment history, your card issuer will want to keep you as a customer. If you don't, your card issuer may be worried that your debt could be headed for a bankruptcy discharge. Either way, it doesn't hurt to call and ask for a rate reduction; you just might be successful.
  5. Even better, get that debt down to $0. Create a debt snowball and put as much money toward it as you can. The sooner you retire your debt, the sooner you can start saving all that principal and interest that you had been paying to the banks.
  6. Budget for fun. Seriously, make sure you leave some room in your budget every month for entertainment. It's a lot easier (and more enjoyable) to set aside a little bit each month for entertainment than it is to try to live a Spartan lifestyle and deny yourself all pleasures. Not only will any attempt to cut fun out of your budget likely backfire, when it does, it'll probably be way more expensive than letting off a little steam within preplanned limits.
It's Your Money -- Keep More of It

These are just a few of the ways you can get control of your money, save more of it, and direct more of it to exactly where you want it to go. Make 2014 the year your money started working for you as hard as you work for it.

Chuck Saletta is a Motley Fool contributing writer. For more ways to make your money work harder for you in 2014, check out our brand-new free special report, "Your Essential Guide to Start Investing Today." The Motley Fool's personal-finance experts show you what you need to get started, and even gives you access to some stocks to buy first. Click here to get your free copy today.

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I relocated to the State of South Carolina, from NJ., The people in SC claim to be republicans, but what I don't understand is how can that possibly be true, when they are the poorest, most underpaid and uneducated people in the US. By the way, when I am grocery shopping most of the people in line are white and paying for their goods wiith food stamps and other assistance. I really don't think the people in SC know what being a republican is about, they are just RACIST!

January 19 2014 at 8:50 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Sam, get your facts straight. Those on welfare are always Democrats. Look for the red states to turn blue as they take over.

January 15 2014 at 12:55 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to betty_brock's comment

They know who\'s buying their votes.

January 15 2014 at 12:58 PM Report abuse -4 rate up rate down Reply

Sam would be correct, do the research, quit looking foolish, reality, the lowest incomes in the country are from the South and Midwest, have bee, and will always be the case. The money resides with the Liberals, the heaviest charity donors are Conservatives, the opposite of what the uneducated believe.

January 15 2014 at 2:44 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I saw Maria Shriver interview a single mom who was having trouble making ends meet. Maria
(who has several large houses, I\'m sure) was soooo sympathetic to the mom who only had one.
H E L L O, move into a smaller house. STOP LIVING BEYOND YOUR MEANS.

January 15 2014 at 12:54 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply

Don't buy Obamacare!

January 15 2014 at 10:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to jdykbpl45's comment

The young who were supposed to support the system aren\'t buying. They don\'t want to be left holding the bag.

January 15 2014 at 12:57 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply

Good points made in the article. Unfortunately, all of this info has been discussed, before. Not once, but many times. I sure would like to see some fresh info on this website --- not just the same old reruns of previous financial advice.

January 15 2014 at 8:50 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Valerie's comment

so true . and many times they conflict from one to the next. truth is this economy is not doing well. for one doing well they are about 3 with under water mortgages so that money is burned. 2 are unemployed or underemployed. of the remaining 4 out of 10 well lets see student debt will cripple 2 so even with a good job going nowhere for years and probably underpayed and the remaining 2 probably didnt buy a house at the wrong time and are waiting to get in . of those 2 that are in decent condition im sure 1 couple is working so much life sucks and the remaining 1 is one man working and the wife at home not alot of money to go around. thats the remaining 9 for that 1 well off dude. not rich well off. and from a generation of work not his own. this is america.

January 15 2014 at 9:43 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to calva69696666's comment

@ Calva: You describe the current problems very well.

Probably the biggest element keeping people broke is home ownership. This concept (which made sense in a bygone era when people had job security in the sense that they could work at one job for 30 years and retire from it) has morphed into not much more than a giant Ponzi scheme run by the banks and home builders.

Looking back at the insanity of the housing bubble, it is hard to believe that it lasted as long as it did. Construction was the largest source of employment. America was no longer in the business of creating new businesses. It was in the business of selling and promoting home ownership. Construction literally became the American economy. When that bubble burst, housing took down all the satellite businesses connected to it. It was like the Titanic sinking.

What is needed now is mobility and the freedom to move to where a better job market is to find employment. You don't have that, if you are stuck with a house and a mortgage. That house (which was marketed as the "American Dream") is like a big lead anchor dragging you down into financial ruin. If you are renting, you also have the option of downsizing to a smaller less expensive rental place if money gets tight. You sure don't have that option if you own a house.

Even if you are not underwater on your home value, it's not unusual to have 50% of your income being spent on that house and costs connected with it. Add in the costs of 1 or 2 cars, food, utilities, etc. --- and how much money is left?? Not much.

The collapse of the housing bubble marked the end of a widespread way of American life. Houses had been like giant piggy banks --- with home equity loans making it possible to both over-consume and under-save. We probably should have seen this disaster coming, but I don't think very many people did.

What is really scarey is that the same forces that created the recent housing crash are working hard at trying to create another housing bubble. There is even talk of increasing the length of mortgages to 40 or 50 years. And people are still buying into this scam. It's the same old song and dance. "This time, it will be different." And, it will be. Even worse than the last crash.

January 15 2014 at 2:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

These are good points, but a path of wisdom is better than one of tricks.

January 15 2014 at 7:35 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply