A savings plan for the new year

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Thinking about setting a New Year’s resolution to improve your finances? Perhaps you want to pay off pesky credit card debt, finish making car payments, or destroy your student loan balance.

Or perhaps you want to build a larger savings account, start investing, or contribute more to your retirement 401(k).

Regardless of the specifics of your financial New Year’s resolution, it probably revolves around two basic fundamentals: spending less and saving more.

Here are some basic tips that can help you keep that resolution.

Remind yourself of the big goal

If you’re saving for a specific goal — like a down payment on a home, a vacation to Europe or a larger retirement nest egg — keep little reminders of the goal scattered throughout your home.

Put a screensaver on your computer that depicts that goal. Hang a photo representing the goal in your office or bedroom. Talk to friends and family about the goal.

You’re more likely to save money if you have a strong “why” associated with your efforts.

Boost your income

One of the easiest ways to save more money is to boost your income while keeping current spending levels the same.

Can you take on extra freelance, consulting or teaching jobs? Can you deliver pizzas, baby-sit, mow lawns or shovel snow?

There are countless ways to earn extra money, and even working an additional 10 hours per week can accelerate progress toward your goal.

Cut your ongoing expenses

Saving a little money occasionally is nice, but saving $5 or $10 every month is far better. Find ways to slash recurring bills, such as cable, Internet, utilities, subscriptions, service plans and memberships.

Remember, even a relatively small savings of $3 per month translates into $36 per year — a decent sum of money for anybody.

Paula Pant is a journalist-turned-blogger who helps people ditch the cubicle and live on their own terms. She’s traveled to 30 countries, owns six rental property units and hasn’t had an employer since 2008. Her blog, Afford Anything, is the gathering point for a tribe that refuses to say “I can’t afford it.” Follow Paula on Twitter: @AffordAnything.