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Welcome the new year with goals

I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to looking at my financial situation. As each new year rolls around, I think, “This year I will pay off my debt, add more to my savings and devise a razor-sharp plan for retirement.”

Then at year’s end, I sadly contemplate my lack of goal achievement in these areas but always believe the next year will be the time for me finally to meet those goals.

Did I mention I wear a pair of rose-colored glasses too?

Seriously, I’m glad I don’t get too depressed about my lack of financial accomplishments and I do think I have gotten better but some of my failing in this area -- like many other people I suppose -- comes because I don’t have a firm set of specific guidelines to follow, only a general idea about what I want to do.

This year, after reading lots of advice on how to come up with specific tasks to reach my goals, I thought I’d pass along some tasks I’m going to do and maybe you can try them too if you need a little help to edge you closer to being more like Warren Buffett than the Average Joe.

1. Develop a monthly budget, one specific enough to keep me nicely balanced between my income and expenditures with something left over to have some fun and do some savings. Believe it or not, with the poor economy as an incentive, Americans in the past two years have paid off nearly $1 trillion in debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Unless you know where all your money is going, how can you save any for retirement or that special occasion?

I’ve had very short-term planning in this department in the past; i.e., my anniversary is coming up in two weeks so I need to give up eating lunch out for two weeks to afford the gift to my husband.

2. Set up a general savings account and a Christmas savings account.

I really have gotten tired of robbing Peter to pay Paul when the holidays come around. This year, I will sock away so much every two weeks and forget about it.

Come December, I’ll use my nest egg to treat my family and friends to some wonderful memories.

If you find that the next time your car breaks down, your bank account does too, start a general savings ac- count. A few dollars here and there starts looking like compounding interest by the time you need it.

3. Dump the credit and debt card whenever you can and use cash. Studies have shown that usually people tend to spend less when they pay with cash.

I know there is a disconnect when I pull out a plastic card and swipe. I think of my card as a bottomless pit of cash -- bad vision and bad results.

These sound like simple things but I know if I stick to them, I’ll be so much better off at the end of 2011.

So happy New Year and here’s to being a step closer to fiscal soundness.