Business

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.

CHICAGO TRIBUNE

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