Are you ready to overhaul your spending patterns, start funneling more money into your bank account and buy better (and safer) products in 2014? If so, you've come to the right place. We've rounded up our favorite money stories to give you the bite-size nuggets you need to get your financial resolutions in place. Here are 25 ways to improve your finances in the new year:
1. Start feeling good about money.
If you have a "money shame," or something that embarrasses you or makes you feel badly about how you've handled money in the past, then make this the year to move on. Financial therapist Bari Tessler Linde says many people have trouble thriving in their current financial lives because they're still dwelling on past mistakes. "Most people need to understand their money story first," she says, which includes assessing strengths along with relationships to spending, earning and giving.
Simply asking yourself what your goals are can help set you on the path to achieving them, says Bart Astor, author of "AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life," which is aimed at the 50-plus crowd. He recommends thinking big and pursuing your biggest dreams, even ones that seem overly ambitious. To help increase the chances of success, he also suggests sitting down with a spreadsheet to crunch some numbers and make sure you have money saved to fund your adventures.
3. Avoid unexpected costs of driving.
Driving is convenient, but it can also be surprisingly costly. You can get into accidents through no fault of your own (and end up having to pay the deductible if the other person leaves the scene or successfully argues it wasn't his fault). Regular maintenance, including oil changes and repairs, along with registration fees and parking permits, also add up.
Climbing back from bankruptcy or paying off huge amounts of credit card debt are no small feats, and if you're in the midst of that kind of transition, you could probably use some support. Find friends who will help you stay on track with affordable activities and by serving as sounding boards. Keep your big goals at the top of your mind by posting them prominently in a place you look every day (like your desk).
5. Avoid dangerous products.
With more than 400 product recalls a year coming out of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, it's hard to keep track of them all. Signing up for email alerts from the commission or downloading an app that alerts you about recalls can help. If you're buying used baby products, you'll want to be especially careful, since there's a high number of crib, stroller and high chair recalls.