Where to save: Office parties and gift exchanges boost employee morale, but they don't necessarily call for overspending on gifts. "I know one person who said they were expected to spend $100 on a co-worker for a Secret Santa exchange," Weston says. "If it's crimping your budget, then talk to your boss or HR department."
Sometimes we lose out on saving indirectly. Check out these five additional circumstances where you might not be making the most of your paycheck:
1. Flex spending accounts. Allotting part of pre-tax pay into a flexible spending account could save you substantially in the long run, Weston says. Such accounts can reduce what you pay out-of-pocket on prescriptions and even childcare.
2. Retirement plans. If your employer provides the opportunity to start a 401(k), 403(b), or 457(b) retirement plan, then consider the option, Weston says. "People aren't saving enough for their retirement. People in their twenties particularly aren't," she says. "It gets harder to start contributing the older you get, not easier. You'll get a tax break, and the majority of work programs offer some sort of company [contribution] match."
3. Tuition reimbursements. Talk with your supervisor and human resources department about your options for continued education. You could receive partial and sometimes full reimbursement if you're taking courses related to your job's responsibilities.
4. Expense reports. Keep work receipts in order, and file expense reports as quickly as possible. "Don't ever carry debt on a credit card for your company's benefit," Weston says.
5. Taxable deductions. Whether you're unemployed and job-searching or gainfully employed and working, it's important to stay tapped into the professional expenses you can deduct. Mark Luscombe is a principal analyst for CCH, a Wolsters Kluwer business, which is a provider of customer-focused tax, accounting, and auditing information. According to him, working taxpayers may be able to claim what's called un-reimbursed employee expenses. They could include travel expenses for work, or even home office expenses in some cases. Job seekers may write off "a range of things, from the expense to print and mail resumes, to the need to travel for interviews, or to use a professional employment service," he says. Just keep in mind that these would be itemized deductions listed on a 1040 Schedule A form, and they cannot not exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.