So you're a couple weeks into 2014, how are those resolutions going? If you're on your way or just getting started, the ABC News Fixer wants to wish you luck with your goal, but not without a little advice on how to keep your resolutions from turning into financial frustration later. Here are five tips for some of the most popular resolutions.
And as always, if you have any consumer problems, the ABC News Fixer loves to hear them! CLICK HERE to send them to me.
Don't get soaked on a health club contract. You want to work out -- not get the runaround -- so make good decisions about joining a gym. Try to get a short-term, trial membership so you can check out the club and classes at the times you'll be using them. Before signing a contract, make sure it includes all services and fees and any promises made by the sales person. Does the contract automatically renew each year, and what's the specific process to stop that from happening? What happens if you move away or get sick?
Beware not-so-free "free" diet products. Is losing weight on your new year's list? Don't lose money with dubious free trials of fat-burning pills, teas or other products. Typically, the consumer must provide a credit or debit card to pay for shipping and handling of the free sample. But they may be unwittingly signing up for a subscription service that will keep sending products – and billing for them – each month. Make sure you read through all the terms and conditions of any "free" online offer.
Know thy credit. Before you make a big purchase like a car or home, make sure there's nothing hinky on your credit report. You can get a free copy of your report from each of the three credit reporting bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com, the official site set up by the federal government for consumers. You won't get your score – you'd have to purchase that – but you can use the report to make sure there is no incorrect, damaging information on your record.
Get a real job. Job hunters in the new year: Beware of scam job listings that ask for money for job placement, a background check or training. And watch out for identity theft scams that prey upon people who have resumes posted online. In one typical version of the scam, a "recruiter" directs job hunters to a realistic-looking website where they are asked to provide personal information such as birthdates and Social Security numbers. Be wary of any work-at-home job offers that are simply too good to be true.
Make sure you love your dating service. If your resolution is to finally join a matchmaking service, do your research with your head and not your heart. Resist high-pressure or emotional sales tactics and ask: How many referrals will they give you and within what time period? Does the contract specify the distance you'll have to travel for a date? What's the total cost of the contract? Can you cancel? If you join an online dating site, never give your personal or financial information to a potential suitor and be especially wary of people who quickly ask you to communicate with them off-site using a private email address.
- The ABC News Fixer
Got a consumer problem? The ABC News Fixer may be able to help. Click here to submit your problem online. Letters are edited for length and clarity.