So, here are six easy-to-implement moves to help you step up your savings a notch or two in 2014.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.