When you are living paycheck-to-paycheck, there is no bigger budget-killer than the emergency expense – be it a dental emergency, veterinary care or an unexpected car repair. But even though the exact outlines of your next emergency aren't knowable, the fact that one is certainly coming is a situation for which you can plan. Credit.com contributor Mitchell Weiss recently wrote about the 25 percent savings strategy, which can help you budget for the unexpected. It's one of many strategies out there, but whatever plan works for you, stick with it because you are going to need that money sooner or later.
6. Focus on Your Taxes
While technically your taxes aren't due until April 15, if you want to minimize what you send to Uncle Sam, don't wait until the last minute to fill out the most basic tax return form. Instead, use the IRS website, a private sector program or even your state or municipality's tax preparation service for lower-income families to become familiar with the credits and deductions to which you might be entitled -- and gather and save your receipts and other proof to justify taking them. Like the rest of your finances, a little advance planning can make a world of difference.
7. Don't Abdicate Responsibility for Your Financial Future
Nobody likes chores, and keeping a close eye on your finances can definitely be a chore. It's quite easy to just throw up your hands and leave things to the fates. But you (probably) wouldn't let the trash pile up and hope for the best, or fill a room with dirty laundry and just go out and buy new clothes (though the thought is tempting), so don't just leave your finances to chance, either. Help ensure that this is the New Year's resolution that you keep by making it easy on yourself: start small, create achievable goals and use the tools available to you – like technology – to minimize the time and effort it takes to stay on track.
Adam Levin is chairman and cofounder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. His experience as former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs gives him unique insight into consumer privacy, legislation and financial advocacy. He is a nationally recognized expert on identity theft and credit.