For Mark Roberts’ Use: Think of your money as water, and your budget as the bucket that contains it. Wouldn’t it be distressing to discover your bucket has several small leaks, and your “water” has been slowly dripping out undetected? Unfortunately, that could be exactly what’s happening to your budget. Check for these five common, but sneaky leaks – and plug them up before you lose any more money.

Appeal your property assessment. It’s a common misconception to believe you have to simply pay your property tax bill when it arrives, without questioning the amount. The housing market has yet to fully recover, meaning your home is my not be worth as much as it once was. The problem is, many county tax collectors are still assessing properties at their older, higher values. Appeal your assessment, and you may get a break on your property tax.

Give the gift of stock. It’s a smart move to give tax-deductible contributions to charity. But did you realize you can often give the gift of stocks instead, and that by doing so you might avoid paying capital gains taxes on the appreciated value? This can be a great way to double up on your tax savings, but since the rules can be complicated it’s a good idea to talk to your tax professional first.

Use a health savings account. These accounts are a great tax shelter, but many people don’t understand them. Set aside pre-tax dollars in this account, and you can pay all of your out-of-pocket health expenses while also saving money at tax time.

Don’t forget IRA contributions for your nonworking spouse. IRA contributions are a great, tax-deductible way to save for retirement. But you might be missing another tax deduction if you aren’t also making contributions for your nonworking spouse. Consult your tax professional about your specific situation.

Time your car purchase right. Often when we want to buy a new car, we simply head to the dealership at whatever time suits us. But choosing the right time can save you anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. If you can wait until the end of the month or end of the year, you can take advantage of the fact that the dealership probably still needs to meet a sales quota. Even the time of day can work in your favor; show up late in the day, and the dealer may make small concessions just to get the deal closed.