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1. Pay cash for everything. If you have to borrow money to buy something or must put it on layaway, you can't afford it. The one exception is your primary dwelling, for which you'll probably need a mortgage. But try to be sure that the amount you owe on the mortgage doesn't exceed the value of the home. Your car is not an exception. If you can't afford to pay cash for a car, you can't afford it. Keep the one you have, getting it repaired as necessary, or trade it in on another used ("pre-owned") car. If you absolutely must get a car that you can't pay cash for, get your loan from a bank, not from the auto dealer.
2. Don't use credit cards; if you must, then pay off the balance in full each month, as if they were debit cards. Don't get suckered into paying the usurious interest rate the card issuers hope you will. It's how they make the profits that enable them to pay their CEOs millions.
3. If you have some spare cash, use it first to pay off any debts you may have. For the rest, shop around for short-term CDs (1-5 years). Last year I found one from Discover that paid an astonishing 3.5%, and I wish I had put more into it. Back in the 1970s, before Nixon took us off the silver standard, money market interest rates were close to 15%; FDIC-insured bank savings accounts paid 4.25%, and S&L accounts paid 5.25%. No more! My current S&L, which also has checking, pays less in interest every month than it charges in fees for ATM withdrawals and other transactions.
4. Never pay full price for anything--at least as seldom as you can. We always buy marked-down groceries, including day-old bread and pastries, and milk that is near enough to its expiry date that the store has marked it down (we've never had milk go sour on us even three days beyond its expiry date). Comparison shop: in our area, one supermarket has good prices on vegetables, but high prices on meat and dairy, while another has good dairy prices but its vegetables are expensive. One of our sells 1% cream cheese that tastes like 3%, and another sells 1% that tastes like 0%.
5, The same goes for clothing. Go for overstocks or returned goods. Lands End, whence I order lots of clothing, has excellent prices on clothing they're discontinuing--about what (in my opinion) it's really worth. You may not find the size or color you want, but it's still better than full price, which is often sky-high.
I hope these tips will help you have a prosperous 2012, and enable you to end the year with more money than you ended 2011 with.