After a particularly trying financial year (and the always budget-unfriendly month of December), consumers might call for a halt to spending and vow to manage their debt more effectively. With unemployment still high, the sad fact about this 2011 resolution is that many people will have difficulty accomplishing it, and not through any fault of their own. Financial planners advise making specific budget-friendly rules, rather than pronouncing overarching and often unattainable goals. Only allow yourself to eat one dinner out a week. Take a sack lunch to work most days. Vow to shop around for a new auto, home insurance and credit cards with lower interest rates and free balance transfers. Can you spare an extra $50 or even $20 a month to put toward paying off your student loans?
If you're lucky enough to make it out of debt, the goal then becomes tucking some money away for retirement or a rainy day. Look into maxing out your 401(k) at work. And, while flipping through your favorite magazine, repeat the mantra, "I will save money this year, I will save money this year." But, ooh, look at that new Marc Jacobs bag, and I really could use a Kindle for all those subway commutes. Oh, and what about a new wardrobe for spring? Hmm. Maybe I'll save money next year.