If 2016 is the year you've vowed to get into financial shape, you might want to start by learning whether there's money out there rightfully due to you. You may be surprised to find that many people can get free money from unexpected places.

Look for Unclaimed Funds

One way to start is to check with your state's unclaimed funds department for money left in savings and investment accounts, forgotten rental deposits, and dividends that never were delivered. The first place to look is at the website, unclaimed.org, run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators. You'll then be directed to your state's unclaimed funds page.

When I tried this in 2015, I uncovered $231.55 in free money from two investment accounts my grandmother had opened in both our names years ago. I had to wait two months to get the checks from my state, but the actual effort took me about an hour.

Adjust Your Withholding

Federal tax refunds for 2015 averaged more than $2,700. Based on refund trends the IRS has reported in recent years, I'd wager that figure will be about the same in 2016. While that can feel like free money to a lot of people, it's actually funds that you could have received earlier in your paycheck, albeit in smaller amounts. By adjusting your withholding, you'll ensure that the extra tax that you've been paying the IRS each pay period lands in your pocket instead.

The IRS's Withholding Calculator can help you determine the number of exemptions you should be claiming, which is the basis of your withholding. It's then a simple step to fill out a new IRS Form W-9 to establish your withholding and give it to your employer.

To be sure, this strategy may not be attractive to the many folks who view their refunds as forced savings. But keep in mind that the IRS doesn't pay you interest on the money it withholds. So if you have the discipline, arrange for the extra sum in your paycheck to be direct-deposited each pay period into a savings or retirement account. That way it has the opportunity to grow over time.

Boost Your 401(k) Contribution

OK, this isn't exactly free money. You actually may have to kick in more money to your 401(k) plan to earn more. But if, like 88 percent of employees, you participate in a retirement plan that offers an employer match once you contribute, you owe it to yourself to at least get the maximum match possible. That really is free money.

The Plan Sponsor Council of America, which represents sponsors and servicers of employer-based retirement plans, has estimated that the average match from an employer-based plan is 4.5 percent. Typically, to get that full match, you'll have to contribute up to 6 percent of your own money.

Check Your Auto Insurance Coverage

Our exhaustive study of auto insurance pricing showed that you may not always benefit from customer loyalty discounts. So if you haven't shopped for coverage in the last three years, it's worth checking auto-insurance comparison sites to see what you can save.

Even if you find your own coverage is still the least expensive, you still may find savings within your policy. Depending on where you live, raising a deductible to $1,000 from zero could reduce your collision deductible by as much as 47 percent. Consider dropping collision and/or comprehensive when the annual premium for that portion of that coverage exceeds 10 percent of your car's book value.

Correct Mistakes in Your Credit Report

Your credit score, which is based on information in your credit reports, can affect how much you'll pay in interest on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages and other debt; how high a premium you'll be charged for auto insurance; and even whether you'll be offered a job or allowed to rent an apartment. Getting rid of mistakes can translate into paying less. So keeping your reports clean and error-free should be among your New Year's resolutions.

You're permitted to request a free credit report annually from each of the three national credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Use annualcreditreport.com, the official site to get all your credit reports free. We recommend staggering the reports by requesting one now, the second report in four months, and the third in eight months. For example, you might request the Equifax report now, the Experian report in April, and the TransUnion report in August. That way, you're keeping round-the-year tabs on your credit without paying a service to do so.