Every year, about 45 percent of Americans make a new year's resolution, but only 8 percent of them are actually successful, according to Statistics Brain Research Institute.

The Camden Herald is running a series to help improve those odds. Each week, we will feature one of the most common new year's resolutions and ask an expert for advice on how to enter the resolution winner's circle in 2016.

The U.S. Department of Commerce says Americans save only 5.8 percent of the money they have left after paying for the things they absolutely need. In addition, 80 percent of Americans are in debt.

With this in mind, it is no wonder that "spend less, save more" is on the list of most common new year's resolutions.

Abraham Dugal, a financial adviser at Allen Insurance and Financial in Camden (Securities and advisory services offered through Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser). graciously agreed to give readers some tips on how to have more money in the bank at the end of 2016 than going into it.

I want to spend less, but I have no idea where all my money goes. It's here one minute, then it's gone. What should I do?

First, it's necessary to know how much is being spent and on what. Track spending as it happens, or look back at monthly checking account statements, and bucket expenses into categories. Once you see how much is being spent and on what, look at each category to identify opportunities to reduce spending. Creating a budget will provide personal spending guidelines for each category. Small purchases matter, they can add up quickly over time and are generally the easiest to adjust.

Are there any good online resources or apps that can help?

The most widely known and used online tool is Mint, which is now owned by Intuit. They also have a mobile app, which is a more compact version of their online tool. Both the online tool and app are free. Mint’s focus is on budgeting and tracking spending by linking bank accounts and creating categories within the tool. Spending can be entered manually as well, and the interface is quite user friendly. The tool actively monitors spending in relation to a budget and can send alerts that identify trends in spending and opportunities for savings.

OK, I've stuck to my budget and now I have a little left over every month to put in savings. Where should I put it? In a bank savings account? Under my mattress?

The first priority is to establish an emergency savings fund that can replace at least 3 months of living expenses.This money should be held in a stable account such as a savings account at a bank or a credit union. Savings accounts at banks are insured by the FDIC for up to $250,000. Credit union accounts have similar insurance provided by the NCUA for the same dollar amount. Both are backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. The next saving priority is retirement. Take advantage of any employer sponsored retirement plans such as a 401(k) or SIMPLE IRA, and if they offer a match, contribute at least the amount necessary to maximize the employer contribution. If your employer does not offer a retirement plan, establish and contribute to a traditional IRA or Roth IRA account.

Instead of putting my extra money in the bank, is it better to use it to pay off a car loan? What about increasing my mortgage payments?

Generally speaking, paying down debt should be a priority, starting with the highest interest rate debt first. This assumes that the aforementioned emergency savings fund has been established and holds enough money to cover an unexpected life event or expense. The substitute for savings when something unexpected happens tends to be incurring new debt and that may have a higher interest rate than the car loan or mortgage that was just paid down.

How much money should I have saved up by the time I retire?

It greatly depends on the individual’s retirement goals and the type of retirement that they are seeking. However, the general retirement income rule of thumb is to replace 75 to 85 percent of pre-retirement income through Social Security, retirement savings and other income sources.

Any other advice?

Budgeting and saving is a work in progress and it takes time to change spending habits. Start small, be realistic, and adjust over time as necessary to meet your financial goals.

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