Your weekly money scoop: December 29, 2016

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Your weekly money scoop: December 29, 2016

By JENNIFER WILLIAMS

We're serving you our weekly bite-sized roundup of the stories you need to know. This week, read about how naming your accounts can help you save more money and which states will get a tax hike on gasoline.

Invest your year-end bonus in yourself. Three out of four employers plan to give an average bonus of $1,081 this year according to a survey by Accounting Principals. While a new outfit can boost your confidence, consider investing your bonus money in education, experiences, or a financial planner to reap personal and financial rewards long term. And definitely don't go without a plan for the money - otherwise you might spend it on meaningless things.

Spa and salon memberships are gaining popularity. Some stores are trying out membership plans that offer unlimited or discounted services for clients who pay a monthly fee, such as Drybar and Blushington Makeup and Beauty Lounge. Similarly, you can pay a flat fee to get unlimited monthly services using apps such as Zeel, which connects you with massage therapists who come to you. If your beauty routine is already part of your budget, finding the right membership could simplify your spending and potentially save you money.

Paying off smaller debts first could be the most effective debt payoff strategy. According to Harvard Business Review researcher Remi Trudel, although it makes financial sense to tackle higher-interest rate debts first, rewiring consumer behaviors can lead to faster repayment. In his recent study, Trudel found that the portion of the balance consumers succeeded in paying off had the biggest impact on their perception of progress. Thanks to the "power of small wins," seeing one's efforts make a difference, such as by closing out a small loan, can keep people better motivated.

Naming accounts can help you save more. According to financial planners at the Financial Psychology Institute, adding some personality to your savings accounts attaches more emotional significance to the money you put away. Therefore may be more likely to deposit money regularly. Plus, adding specific names can keep your financial goals in focus.; "Backpacking Trip" is more exciting and tangible than "Travel Savings." It's a simple change that can make saving feel fun, personal and rewarding - instead of a chore.

In 2017, seven states will see a hike in gas taxes. On average, a gallon of gas is going for $2.29 per gallon, according to AAA, up more than a quarter from this time last year. Georgia will see a tax increase of less than a penny per gallon, while Pennsylvania will see a nearly eight cent jump. But in some states, the higher cost could save drivers money in the long run. In New Jersey, for example, the funds will go to improving road conditions.

And that's the scoop this week -- see you next week for more.

About the Author: Jennifer Williams is a QA Specialist in Member Support at Credit Karma. She has her MFA in Fiction, and puts her skills to use helping members and training new hires. When she's off the clock, she can be found editing her novel, playing guitar, or hiking with her dog in the hills.

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