A card with an attractive cash-back rewards program may offer between 1 and 5 percent on regular spending, which can result in significant earnings to help pay your monthly bill. But to ensure real savings, it's crucial to pay the full balance on your card every month -- lest interest charges negate those rewards.
3. Consider refinancing -- again
After years of historically cheap rates, mortgage rates hit new lows in December, according to mortgage website
. Rates below 4 percent for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages were the norm in 2012, making refinances cost-effective for a greater number of homeowners -- even those who have refinanced previously.
In addition, home prices rose for the sixth straight month in November, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index. Higher home values may help some homeowners reach the equity standards necessary to lock in a new low rate. So if you have been considering a first or additional refinance, it's hard to imagine a better time to try.
4. Explore new car insurance discounts
Your insurance rates are based on assumptions of your driving habits. But letting your insurance company observe your driving through on-board vehicle monitoring equipment may allow you to actually demonstrate how safely you drive -- and lower your rates in the process.
recent article on CarInsurance.com
detailed how some of these cutting-edge programs work. But if installing this equipment feels too invasive, there are plenty of other modern discount programs -- such as programs that reduce your premiums for each year you don't have an accident -- that may also make shopping for a new policy worthwhile.
5. Review your 401(k) contributions
Fidelity Investments recently reported that average employer contributions to its 401(k) accounts have grown 19 percent in the past five years, more than doubling the growth rate of employee contributions. That means that either employees who enjoy a company match have been taking advantage of it more aggressively, or that companies have upped their willingness to match employee contributions. But in either case, it's a trend you should note.