Tighten the belt in 2010

Below are a few ideas for a spending detox. The value is not the money you save, but the lessons you learn about your spending habits. A timeout on spending might also highlight the difference between needs and wants.

Entertainment: Make plans for free entertainment — something you would not usually do. That could be as simple as reading a book sitting in your bookcase or playing a board game with the family. Or it might involve discovering freebies in the community, such as museums and parks. And don't forget the public library.

This also is a good time to re-evaluate America's favorite entertainment option: television. Could you cut back on your subscription package, supplementing it with online content, for example? Or maybe even get by without cable?

Home improvements: Do no home upgrades unless you have the materials and tools. One of the cheapest home improvements is cleaning and reducing clutter. In fact, that's a general theme of this exercise: consume less; purge more. Whenever you skip a purchase and feel deprived, write it down. At the end of four weeks, examine the list. You might be surprised at how the desire for those things has disappeared.