3 Money-Saving New Year's Resolutions for 2011

Vowing to shop and spend wisely in the year ahead? Here's how!

With December 31st fast approaching, have you decided on a New Year's resolution? If getting better control over your finances is on the agenda for 2011, you're not alone. Heading into a new year is the perfect time to assess your current money situation: to look back on your smart and not-so-smart purchases of 2010, to really think about what your goals are for the coming months, and to lay out a shopping budget and a plan that will put you in a better financial place come next December. With that in mind, I've come up with my own list of savings-related New Year's resolutions to inspire you. This year, I vow to…

#3 Spend less — and spend better — on what I eat. In 2011, become a restaurant snob and vow to do away with middle-of-the-road dining out: those overpriced, nothing-special lunches during the work-week; gluttonous, carb-laden girls' nights out when a movie or a half-priced happy hour would suffice. You shouldn't give up the occasional fancy meal out, but save your hard-earned money for more meaningful special treats (celebrating an anniversary at the hot new restaurant, for instance) and be frugal — brown-bagging your lunch, getting up early on weekends to hit local farmers' markets — the rest of the time.

#2: Shop in my own closet. You've heard this one a thousand times, so why haven't you tried it? I don't mean half-heartedly glancing in the back of your closet next time you're getting dressed, pulling out an old dress to wear once. This January, I'm going to take the top six or seven outfits I wear the most and banish those to the back of my closet (maybe even in a locked suitcase!). I'll then be forced to wear the items I wear so infrequently that they literally look and feel like new clothes. Maybe it's a shirt that's been waiting for months to be dry-cleaned, or a dress that I loathe ironing but that's otherwise adorable. Chances are, with just a little extra work you can get through the next month or so without repeating an outfit — for absolutely free.

#1: Pay and splurge in equal amounts. I'm not crazy — I know 2011 will bring its fair share of splurge-worthy moments: a must-have coat or pair of boots, a wedding gift for a close friend. I plan to justify these moments by simultaneously making a payment of the same amount to my student loan or credit card company (or even better, to my savings account). So if a dress I love is $100, I won't buy it unless I am able to make an extra $100 payment against some of my debt. If I unexpectedly spend $50 at a party's cash bar, I'll put another $50 toward my bills the next day (that's an additional $50 after regular monthly payments, of course!). This way, I'll quickly lower the balance on some of my bigger credit cards or loans, and I'll be extremely choosy about where and when I do splurge.

What better way to ring in 2011 than with a handful of goals that will help you be richer, well-fed, and better-dressed? Cheers to that — and Happy New Year!

What ways will you spend smarter in 2011? Chime in now!

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