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5 best consumer finance tips of 2012

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(MoneyWatch) Although the U.S. economy is sprouting "green shoots," if no flowers yet, finances for many Americans remain tight. And with incomes still stagnant, pinching pennies is as important than ever.

Staying informed in this tough economic environment can save you a bundle, and CBS MoneyWatch's personal finance expert Kathy Kristof shared important tips throughout the year. The MoneyWatch team looked back at Kathy's posts from 2012 and chose our favorite nuggets of advice.

5 best consumer finance tips of 2012

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Pesky airline fees

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Over the past few years the nation's airlines have discovered that they can squeeze significant additional revenue out of passengers by charging extra for things like checked baggage and pillows. One airline even charges up to $50 to bring a piece of carry-on luggage on board.

Kathy looked at the most annoying fees and shared some good remedies in this post.

5 best consumer finance tips of 2012

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Food prices

A severe drought this summer caused food prices to rise, squeezing family budgets nationwide.

From substitutions to buying local, Kathy's advice could save you money any time of the year. (Not to mention that some of her tips are not only good for your bottom line, but may also benefit your waistline...)

5 best consumer finance tips of 2012

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Dumb things you do with your cash

The recession has actually been good for changing how Americans handle their money, making them less likely to overspend and more likely to pay off debts. But there are still a number of common money moves that are just plain dumb.

From carrying a balance on your credit cards (and getting hit with sky high interest rates) to making poor investment choices, Kathy has some important tips that will save you cash.

5 best consumer finance tips of 2012

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Getting paid to exercise

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Looking for a way to inspire yourself to exercise? How about putting a little cash on the line?

In this post, Kathy wrote about a nifty website that will pay you to exercise. But there's one important thing to point out -- if you fall short of your goal, you will get charged a penalty. So honor that New Year's resolution!

5 best consumer finance tips of 2012

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Mobile banking protection tips

Millions of consumers have embraced mobile banking, but there are important tips to follow to keep your transactions and account safe.

Kathy looks at everything from choosing the right password to communicating safely with your financial institutions.

Check out her tips here.