Money

5 small changes that can save you almost $5,000 a year

Incomes are slowly increasing in the U.S. They rose 3.2 percent from 2015 to 2016, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

But earning more doesn't come with instructions for how to make the most of your paycheck, and 71 percent of Americans have regrets about how they've managed their money, NerdWallet's new "Americans and Money" survey finds.

Common regrets include not thinking about money earlier (48 percent), spending too much on inessentials (39 percent), going into debt because of unnecessary purchases (33 percent) and not sticking to a budget (32 percent).

The good news is that it's not too late to start learning better money management skills.

"The upside of money regrets is that it shows there's room for improvement," says Kim Palmer, a personal finance expert for NerdWallet. "They can serve as a useful reminder to others to get started with money management today."

One of the simplest ways to improve your finances is to cut back your spending and start saving more. As financial maven Suze Orman shows, living within your means is a key factor in growing your wealth.

Saving money might seem easier said than done, but as NerdWallet points out, small changes can add up. Things like renegotiating bills, refinancing your mortgage, shopping around for insurance and using a cash-back credit card require minimal time up front, but pay off consistently in the long term.

"Focus on taking some small action steps that can have an outsize impact," Palmer tells CNBC Make It.

According to NerdWallet's calculations, renegotiating your bills can save you up to $50 per month, and $600 over the course of a year. Refinancing your mortgage could save even more: $249 per month and $2,988 for the year.

Of course, the amount saved from any of these tactics depends on myriad factors, such as how much you put on a credit card or if you've negotiated your bills before. To figure out what will work best for you, take a big picture look at your finances. What are you already doing that's working and where can you afford to cut back?

"One of the first steps is often getting your finances organized so you can see what changes to make," Palmer says.

It's not too late to turn things around. Creating a budget, paying down debt and contributing to a retirement fund are straightforward steps that you can take from any point in your financial journey.

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