50 Ways to Improve Your Finances in 2013

Conquer the new year with these savvy money management strategies.

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9. Make it automatic.

If manually shifting money into savings and investment accounts is too time-consuming or too painful, consider setting up automatic deposits. Many banks make it easy for customers to do that, and, in fact, might even offer rewards for doing so. Wells Fargo, for example, waives monthly service fees on some of its accounts when customers set up recurring automatic transfers.

10. Leverage your credit card.

If you pay off your credit card bill each month and earn rewards for your spending, don't forget to cash in on them. The biggest bang-for-buck often comes from purchasing retailer-specific gift cards, which have been pre-negotiated by card companies. Farnoosh Torabi, financial expert and television personality, recently picked up an Apple Macbook Air with her points, which she also uses to buy gift cards for family members.

11. Find your perfect piece of plastic.

If your credit card isn't meeting all your needs, it might be time to find one that does. Comparison websites such as nerdwallet.com, indexcreditcards.com, and creditcards.com make it easy to compare the benefits of different cards to figure out which one suits your needs. If you carry any sort of balance, there's only one factor to focus on: finding the lowest interest rate.

12. Upgrade your bank.

Bank policies can vary widely, from offering above-average interest rates on savings accounts to making it easy to budget online with extra tools. Consider your own lifestyle and then find the bank that best matches it. If you travel a lot, you probably want a large bank with thousands of ATMs throughout the country (and beyond). If you're trying to save more, then you might want to focus on the savings rates.

13. Demand more from the one you have.

Customers are increasingly voting with their feet and switching banks when they're not happy with their current one. That also means customers have more leverage to ask for the changes they want from their current bank, as banks struggle to retain loyal customers. If you want lower fees or a higher interest rate on your savings account, ask your bank what they can do for you—they might be able to offer you a better deal than the one you're currently getting.

14. Consider a credit union.

Frustration with banks' policies, such as new fees, has motivated thousands of customers to jump ship and join credit unions, according to the Credit Union National Association. It can be a good decision, especially considering that credit unions often offer higher interest rates on savings accounts as well as lower fees and lower rates on auto loans and mortgages. They also prioritize spreading financial literacy to their customers.

15. Get a raise.

Just because the economy's struggling to make its big comeback doesn't mean you have to delay asking for a raise. Certified financial planner Lauren Lyons Cole suggests first checking out salary-comparison sites, such as Payscale.com and Salary.com, to see if your own income is out of whack with that of your peers. If it's lower than it should be, review your accomplishments and present them to your boss, along with a request for a raise.

16. Earn more money on the side.

The lack of job security these days has inspired many Americans to pick up a second stream of income by moonlighting. According to the website Payscale.com, the highest-paid moonlighting gigs are in law, clinical psychology, senior copywriting, and information technology security. Freelance website Elance.com predicts that the trend toward freelancing, especially in the creative-services sector of the economy, will only grow throughout 2013.

17. Manage your time better.

When people juggle more than one job, they can quickly feel overwhelmed with responsibilities. Veteran job-jugglers say they survive by staying organized, waking up early, and avoiding time-wastes such as television. Many also work on the weekends and some even take a sabbatical from their day jobs to focus exclusively on their second job for a few months.