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Best Expert Living Advice of 2012

From Diamonds to Decorating, the Best Expert Advice of the Year

Want an expert opinion? This year, we were fortunate enough to talk to everyone from Suze Orman and Martha Beck to relationship coaches and procrastination scholars. Here are the most important lessons we learned from experts in 2013.

Decorate a small apartment on the cheap: Making cramped quarters seem larger than life is easier than you might think. Just ask Janet Lee, a serial small-space nester, and she'll give you plenty of solutions, like layering and displaying collections. "It seems counterintuitive, but in a small space, collections make a strong, unified style statement that won't look like clutter," she says. Who would have thought?

Declutter: Did you know there are four different types of clutterers? According to expert organizer Peter Walsh, the secret to getting over the messiness is figuring out which kind you are (some will surprise you) and then taking steps to get organized. For example, a sentimental clutterer — we all know what that looks like — needs a shift in mindset, he says.

Be happy: There's only one rule to becoming happier, according to life coach Martha Beck, and it has to do with your inner guidance. "Notice what makes you really happy and what doesn't. You would be amazed to know how blind we go to our own joy or discomfort as we learn to follow cultural norms," she says. If that's still not enough, there are plenty of other tips for getting happy.

Achieve big: The secret to success? From dealing with the truth to taking risks, Dr. Phil spills his rules for getting ahead. Aside from having a passion, one major reason to make a move, says Dr. Phil, is that "winners do things that losers don't want to do."

Stop procrastinating, get a raise, and don't burn yourself out, after the break!

Stop procrastinating: We all procrastinate from time to time, but chronic procrastination is a problem that needs to be addressed like any other serious concern, says Joseph Ferrari, a psychology professor and expert in the study of procrastination. It's important to learn the common signs and how to stop them. The link might not be obvious, but caring too much about what others think can be major factor. "Some people procrastinate because they care too much about public perception. The pressure to seem perfect is particularly strong for these people."

Better your finances: While it may take a lot of time and effort, financial adviser Suze Orman says improving your finances can be achieved by truly sticking to just a few rules. Yes, there's a way to enjoy saving, to rely solely on yourself, and to live below your means. When it comes to retail temptation: get it if it's a need, and if it's a want, then, as Orman suggests, "Say no out of love for yourself."

Don't burn out: From not putting ourselves first to not talking about our feelings, Oprah's team of experts has theories as to why women burn out easily. Luckily, there are ways to prevent it. One way to start? Learn how to say no.

Organize your inbox: No one likes feeling overwhelmed by too many emails; often the solution lies in practical but often overlooked tricks, says expert organizer Peter Walsh. They're as simple as setting aside a specific time period for the task and setting up an automatic filtering system that will immediately shuttle emails to the appropriate category. Soon, seeing "Inbox: 0" will be an everyday achievement.

Balance work and relationships: Sometimes being a hardworking woman can get in the way of having successful relationships. Take it from April Beyer, an expert relationship coach and matchmaker, who offers up relationship advice for career-oriented women who find it hard to maintain steady relationships. "I think a lot of women, especially young, savvy, smart, sophisticated women think that their career, résumé, independence makes them a catch. That's not what makes you a catch. Those are just toppings on the beautiful person that you already are."

Negotiate a raise: Asking for more pay or a promotion can be an uncomfortable conversation. But it's important to speak up, says Jim Hopkinson, author of Salary Tutor: Learn the Salary Negotiation Secrets No One Ever Taught You. All it takes are a few, sometimes less obvious, steps. One example? Make sure to increase communication in the weeks and months leading up to your review. Did you sign a new client? "Go head and CC your boss — and in some cases, their boss — so that they're aware of your recent accomplishments."

Save at the supermarket: Forget extreme couponing. By following the wise words of consumer expert Andrea Woroch, you can save big the next time you roll out the shopping cart. It's not just about crunching unit prices or checking your receipt. Take this one tip, for instance: scan both the very top and the bottom of shelves. "The top-named brands pay big money to get their products situated at eye level. Smaller manufacturers can not afford such placement but offer better pricing."

Consider buying manmade diamonds: These days, scientists can create diamonds in the lab that are completely identical to the real thing. Did you know that manmade gems have the same physical and chemical properties as mined diamonds? They also retail for about 20 to 30 percent less than real ones, says Gemesis Diamond Company CEO Stephen Lux. Be aware of the drawbacks, though, which include limits to the diamond's size.

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