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As we enter the last week of the year, we hope that all of you are enjoying the holiday season. This week is one of reflection and resolution for the year to come, and for many that includes a somewhat uneasy scan of the December credit card statement to see how much damage was done over the holidays.

There will be countless articles out there in the coming week with suggestions on how to trim the coming year’s budget. To add to those, we’ve compiled a few of the more unique ways to eke out a little more value from your day to day life that we’ve seen over the last few months. Heading into 2011 seemed as good a time as any to walk through a few of them . . .

End of Year Giving

  • Problem: You feel charitable and enjoy giving to those causes that are important to you, but have no idea how much you gave, who you gave to and how any of it fits into your budget throughout the year.
  • Solution: Be more strategic in your giving. This is not a suggestion to give less, just more efficiently. Sit down now and determine a budget for next year’s giving, divide those resources amongst those causes that are most important to you and give accordingly. Make sure to leave room for other opportunities that move you to add to your circle of giving through the year.


  • Problem: You have a mountain of change scattered in various jugs, piggy banks and containers throughout the house. You’d like to put it to use, but who has time to sprawl out on the floor and roll up piles of change? You could go to a Coinstar, one of those little green boxes at the grocery store, but you’ve heard (correctly) that it’s one of the biggest rip-offs out there, charging somewhere in the 10% range for this convenience.
  • Solution: Were there items on your Christmas list that you didn’t receive? Did you receive a new iPod and need to beef up your music collection on iTunes? Are you tired of cooking for family and friends and need a night out? Use your loose change to treat yourself. See, Coinstar machines also give you the ability to purchase gift cards at retailers from Lowe’s to Gap to Starbucks and the retailers pick up the fee on your behalf. In fact, now through the end of the year, they’ll kick in an extra $10 for every $40 in change that you process, so grab those coins and pay for that morning cup of coffee for the first few months of the year!

Auto Loans

  • Problem: There are great interest rates being offered on auto loans, but you’re in the middle of paying off your current loan and have no plans to buy a new car anytime soon. Have you missed the boat on these great rates?
  • Solution: With rates near historic lows, refinancing your car loan may be worth considering. The short term nature of these loans has meant that you need a substantial rate reduction to make the process worthwhile. But, with rates as low as 4.5% on used cars at small banks and credit unions in the area, relatively substantial savings are possible if you have a higher-rate loan. It’s important to note that the refinancing process on an auto loan is much easier than a typical home refinance and can often be done in one visit to the bank.


  • Problem: Did I just see gas for $3.05/gallon?
  • Solution: Maximize the benefits of grocery store loyalty programs or your warehouse club membership. Many of us rack up points on a weekly basis at our local grocery stores or have memberships to Costco, Sam’s Club or other warehouse clubs that give us access to discounted fuel. The problem is, when it comes time to fill up, we’re as far away from those discounts as could be. The solution is to be a little more conscientious when you fill up. Time fill ups to trips to the grocery or the warehouse club. For example, if you use a Kroger card and spend $400 in a month on groceries, you can save 40 cents per gallon. On a 25-gallon fill-up that’s $10 back in your pocket.

These may not be cure-all savings tips, but they are a good start in putting your money to work for you and maximizing your budget in 2011. Starting off the year with a plan and the right mindset can do wonders for achieving greater peace of mind.

Much like any resolution, don’t fall into the trap of trying to do too much. When we overwhelm ourselves with choices, we typically wind up doing the same thing…nothing.

From all of us at The Asset Advisory Group, have a very safe & Happy New Year!

The Asset Advisory Group