It’s the start of a new year, which gives you the perfect opportunity to finally start spending wiser. It’s a resolution that will pay off in the long run when you have more money stashed away for retirement or a rainy day. Here’s how you can get started.

1. Return Unwanted Christmas Gifts

Let’s face it. You probably received some gifts that you were grateful for, but not totally excited about. It’s okay to return them rather than stick them in a closet for the rest of your life. Take that money and spend it on something you actually need, or stick it in your savings account or retirement fund.

2. Cook With Your Crock-Pot

January is National Slow Cooking Month, and with good reason. It’s the time of year for soups and stews which are easy to make in a Crock-Pot. When you head to the grocery store, you’ll notice that lesser cuts of pork and beef are perfect for slow cooker cooking and are at very low prices. Plus, winter veggies will be on sale, too. Stock up and get ready to have a warm, “comfort food” dinner waiting for you when you get home.

3. Use Your Gift Cards or Exchange Them

Did you get a lot of gift cards this season? Don’t forget about them. Use them to buy things you actually need and if you don’t need anything from that particular store, trade the gift card in for one from a store you do need to shop at. allows you to buy and sell gift cards.

4. National Park Free Days

The National Park Service is turning 100 years old, and to celebrate, they are waiving entrance fees on 16 days throughout the year, including January 18. So head out to the park near you for a fun, free family day!

5. After Christmas Sales

Do you want or need new Christmas décor? Now is the time to buy it. Shop for items at 70-90% off retail price now and you’ll save money when next Christmas rolls around. And that leaves more money for gifts, last minute donations, or end-of-year retirement fund contributions.

Kick off 2016 right with these money saving tips. There’s fun to be had and money to be saved!