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by Selicia Kennedy-Ross

Most of us have already made our usual resolutions for 2011 like trying to lose a little extra on our bottoms while trying to gain a little extra on our bottom lines –by making an effort to tuck away a little extra cash in the new year.

Among the things consumers can do to save themselves a little green in 2011 are starting an emergency savings account, paying down high-interest credit card debt and tracking their personal spending habits.  Yet, even small changes can add up to big savings over time, according to Kimberley Freeman, Regional Director Partnerships for Apprisen Financial Advocates. On her blog, Freeman offers 20 tips to help consumers build savings such as establishing weekly cash limits for entertainment and keeping up regular car maintenance which may prevent small problems from turning into bigger ones.

Freeman also notes that even little changes can increase savings such as clipping coupons, saving extra change in a jar and avoiding bank fees by using only ATMs in your bank’s network. Make a new resolution for 2011 to not only clip coupons but use them. Coupons are a gold mine of savings that often fall through the cracks because they are often lost or forgotten. That’s why U.S. News & World Report advises consumers to store coupons in a convenient place where they will be easily reached and not forgotten or misplaced during grocery shopping trips such as in purses, wallets or glove compartments. Small change is easy to save as it won’t be missed and can add up quickly and be used as petty cash. People often forget that most banks charge about $2 to use out-of-network ATMs to withdraw money, not counting the additional $2-$5 fee the ATM company tacks on so that a $20 withdrawal will actually cost you closer to $26.

Credit cards, while convenient, have greatly contributed to the load of debt carried by most Americans.  However, some of the credit card rules have changed since Jan. 1, 2011, according to  For example, college-aged students applying for their first plastic will not be able to get it as easily as young adults have in the past. Young applicants under 21 who apply for credit may find they are not able to secure a card at all. A new law passed in 2009 known as the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act now requires anyone under 21 to prove they have the assets or enough income to cover the credit they are applying for. If they do not qualify, the bank may require a co-signer before issuing credit but some will not accept unqualified applicants, even with a co-signer.

Financial experts suggest the same three tips for 2011: paying off high-interest credit-card debt right away, establishing an emergency savings account and tracking personal spending for a specified period of time.

It is not in your best interest to pay only the minimum balance on a high-interest credit card because the principle remains the same while the interest rate balloons over time. Pay down these cards quickly and avoid paying the added interest.

An emergency savings account can be a lifeline in times of crisis.  So that when that rainy day finally comes, you have a life-raft to cling to, if not an ark.

Lastly, make an honest effort to track both personal and household spending for a specified period such as two weeks or a month and see what spending the most money on. Yahoo Finance provides an online calculator that can help you track your personal and household spending:  The answer may surprise you. Only then can the savvy consumer make an informed decision about what areas need to be cut.


  • Pay down high-interest credit-card debt right away.
  • Establish an emergency savings account.
  • Track personal spending for a specified period of time to see what areas need to be cut.
  • Clip coupons and keep them in a convenient place where they will not be forgotten or misplaced during shopping trips.
  • Save small change in a jar.
  • Avoid bank fees by using only ATMs in your bank’s network.

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