Jan. 14, 2013 at 3:29 PM ET
You didn't imagine it. Your paycheck shrank. Thanks to an increase in payroll tax, more of your pay is going to fund Social Security. You got a break in 2011 and 2012 when the Social Security payroll tax temporarily dropped from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent. Now it's back where it started.
About 160 million workers pay this tax, and this year's two percentage point increase will cost the average worker about $700, according to the Tax Policy Center in Washington. Wealthier taxpayers may actually feel less of an impact since the 6.2 percent payroll tax only applies to wages up to $113,700.
Still, for a family with a household income of $100,000, the payroll tax hike means a loss in income of about $2,000 a year.
Financial planners and credit counselors say making up for that loss in income will require some careful planning to cut expenses and increase earnings so the hit isn't such a blow.
"For the average person, it's going to take more discipline than ever to offset this payroll tax hike," says CJM Wealth Management CEO Charles Massimo.
Here are some ways to find money to counter the increase:
Adjust your tax withholding
Start with the IRS. Millions of Americans get big income tax refunds every year when they could have extra money each month. That's money you could use for everyday expenses. Figure out the number of withholding allowances you should claim by using the worksheet on the IRS website at irs.gov.
Max out your 401(k)
If you have a qualified retirement plan at work, contribute the maximum amount to that 401(k). You'll reduce your taxable wages by the amount you put in. This year, you can save up to $17,500 in a 401(k) -- a 3 percent increase from 2012. Those age 50 and over can add an extra "catch up" contribution of $5,500 for a total of $23,000 in 2013.
Save on insurance
Examine all property and casualty and life insurance policies and compare rates. Ask your insurance agent about ways to lower premiums, and ask about any discounts for loyalty, good driving and bundling multiple polices. Get a second opinion from another agent to make sure you're getting the best rate.
Refinance your mortgage
Rates are still at historic lows, but don't keep waiting for them to go even lower. Take advantage of low rates now to lower your monthly mortgage payment. Online calculators at sites like BankRate.com can tell you in a few minutes if you can save money by getting a better rate on your mortgage.
Check all fees
Don't keep paying for things you no longer need -- like that Netflix account your rarely use anymore -- just because they're set up as auto-pay.
Avoid unnecessary charges by not using out-of-network ATMs. Negotiate with your bank for lower fees on your accounts or change banks.
Also, "review all those automatic deposits, especially if you are working with a very tight budget. You want to make sure you are able to meet your basic expenses without incurring any of those high late fees," says certified financial planner Diahann Lassus, president of Lassus Wherley in New Jersey.
Switch to a credit card with a lower rate. "Make sure you maintain a strong credit score to ensure lowest possible rates," Massimo says.
Massimo also suggests lowering investment fees by investing in index or exchange-traded funds rather than actively managed funds.
Finally, no one really wants to get a second job, especially if you have to pay Social Security tax on that money too. But getting paid to do something fun won't feel like work and exploring another possible career may prove priceless.
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