Tighten the belt in 2011

Here's a way to become a smarter spender:

Know there's no free lunch: Few things are truly free. You pay for "free" financial advice from brokers in the form of commissions and other fees baked into your investment returns.

Your "free" cash-back credit card rewards might be costing you. Researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago recently concluded that such cards lead to overspending and debt, dwarfing any cash-back rewards. And keep in mind the quip that's often true for "free" online services that have your personal information: "If you're not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold."