2018 is here and it's time to put our financial New Year's resolutions into play. Money matters are important, and saving more is one of the top New Year's promises people make. The prospect of making major financial changes can be daunting, so take small steps and you'll soon see a difference.

Whether your savings goals are grand, or you just want to be more mindful of your earnings and spending, these four easy ways to save will make a difference in the year to come. Using these tips, you will become more financially sound in '18 and in the years that follow. Practice makes perfect, so keep at it day by day. Until money grows on trees, we've got to save whatever and whenever we can!

Start Paying Off Your Debts

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Debt can dig you into a financial hole as interest rates climb and you find yourself owing more and more as each bill comes. As per The Balance, "Clear all debts as soon as possible. You'll save hundreds or thousands on interest. If you're in credit card debt, call your creditors and ask them if there's any way they can lower your APR (interest rate)."

Regions Financial Corporation adds, "Once you're free from paying interest on your debt, that money can easily be put into savings. A personal line of credit is just one option for consolidating debt so you can better pay it off."

Rethink Your Bank Account Plan

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Just because you've been with the same bank for a long time doesn't mean you're stuck. You might find a bank with better offers and fewer fees. Month by month, the savings will add up significantly.

According to The Simple Dollar, "If you're paying a monthly fee for your checking or savings account, you would benefit from researching some of newest banking offers out there. Not only do some of the best banks offer sign-up bonuses simply for opening an account and setting up direct deposit, but some offer attractive interest rates to new customers as well." Bankrate recommends to, "Consider extra costs such as monthly service charges and ATM fees."

The Balance notes, "Use a bank with decent APYs (Annual Percentage Yield) so the money that is sitting in your account accrues more interest over the year."

Stick to Your Shopping List

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When we shop online or in stores, "impulse purchases" can add up fast. Have a shopping list as well as a budget and stick to it. As per The Simple Dollar, "Creating a list before you go to the grocery store is especially important. Not only can it help you buy items that fit with your meal plan, but it can also help you avoid buying food you might waste."

Along with making a list, The Balance suggests to, "Bundle your errands into one long, massive trip per week so that you can save on fuel costs."

Another tip… give yourself some time before making a purchase. You may realize you don't really need it after all. As CNBC notes, "Wait 48 hours before spending money on things that cost more than a certain amount. When you do, you will find that, most of the time, the item was more of a 'want' than a 'need.' Plus, you'll save money and work toward being more mindful with your spending."

And don't forget to clip coupons, seek out weekly deals and specials, and sign up for rewards programs at stores you frequent. The Simple Dollar suggests, "You can add to those rewards and discounts by using rewards credit cards to earn points on purchases at a wide range of stores that can be redeemed for cash back or other benefits."

Consider Your Cable

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According to NerdWallet, "You could lower your cable bill by as much as $40 per month by changing your cable package. And you could save more than $1,000 over two years by bundling your cable and internet service, depending on your carrier."

You may even want to cut out cable altogether. As per CNBC, "With services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime, you can now watch your favorite TV shows and movies for a fraction of the cost of cable TV. A study by market research firm NPD Group shows that cable bills will soon grow to an average of $123 per month, or $1,476 per year. By switching over to an online service or cutting out TV altogether, you can save that money for another financial goal."

Make 2018 the year of savings. With these tips you can bank on it!

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The Federal Reserve sets the guardrails for the federal funds rate, and through that helps control the money supply for the nation.

When you take out a loan for a car, charge something to your credit card, or get a personal line of credit, there is going to be an interest rate that applies to your loan.

A lot of different factors go into what you will be charged, including your own personal credit score. But even those with flawless credit still see a minimum charge that they can't get around. That all goes back to the Federal Funds Rate.

One thing consumers rarely realize is that all of our banks are lending money to each other every night. Banks are legally required to maintain a certain percentage of their deposits in non-interest-bearing accounts at the Federal Reserve to ensure they have enough money to cover any withdrawals that may unexpectedly come up. However, deposits can fluctuate and it's very common for some banks to exceed the requirement on certain days while some fall short. In cases like this, banks actually lend each other money to ensure they meet the minimum balance. It's a bit hard to imagine these multibillion-dollar financial institutions needing to borrow money to tide them over for a bit, but it happens every single night at the Federal Reserve. It's also a nice deal for those with balances above the reserve balance requirement to earn a bit of money with cash that would normally just be sitting there.

The Federal Reserve The Federal Reserve


The exact interest rate the banks will charge each other is a matter of negotiation between them, but the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) (the arm of the Federal Reserve that sets monetary policy) meets eight times a year to set a target rate. They evaluate a multitude of economic indicators including unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence to decide the best rate to keep the country in business. The weighted average of all interest rates across these interbank loans is the effective federal funds rate.

This rate has a huge impact on the economy overall as well as your personal finances. The federal funds rate is essentially the cheapest money available to a bank and that feeds into all of the other loans they make. Banks will add a slight upcharge to the rate set by the Fed to determine what is the lowest interest that they will announce for their most creditworthy customers, also known as the prime rate. If you have a variable interest rate loan (very common with credit cards and some student loans), it's likely that the interest rate you pay is a set percentage on top of that prime rate that your lender is paying. That's why in times of low interest rates (it was set at 0% during the Great Recession), a lot of borrowers should go for fixed interest rate loans that won't increase. However, if the federal funds rate was relatively high (it went up to 20% in the early 1980's), a variable interest rate loan may be a better decision as you would be charged less interest should the rate drop without the need to refinance.

The federal funds rate also has a major impact on your investment portfolio. The stock market reacts very strongly to any changes in interest rates from the Federal Reserve, as a lower rate makes it cheaper for companies to borrow and reinvest while a higher rate may restrict capital and slow short-term growth. If you have a significant portion of your investments in equities, a small change in the federal funds rate can have a large impact on your net worth.

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