Spending Resolutions to Keep in the New Year

These strategies will help you to save more for retirement.

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Most New Year’s resolutions will be long forgotten by February 1st. While Americans make plenty of resolutions, many people simply don’t follow through. But it’s not too late to commit to incorporating some better spending habits into your daily routine that will pay off now and, if you save the extra cash, help you fund your retirement years.

[See The 10 Best Places to Retire in 2012.]

1. Stop being a label snob at the grocery store. In many cases, buying designer labels affords consumers a benefit for the extra money spent, but not for food. Contrary to popular belief, name brand foods aren’t really any better than their off-label counterparts in terms of quality. Many grocery store products are actually made by the national chains you know and love. Grocery stores carry both nationally recognized brands as well as a store label alternative, though you might have to look a little farther down the shelf to find it. You can save anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars per item, leaving you with a much smaller grocery bill each month and more cash in your budget for other things.

[See top-rated funds by category ranked by U.S. News Mutual Fund Score.]

2. Go generic on your prescriptions. Generic medications are not "just like” their name brand counterparts. They are exactly the same. So, what’s the difference? It all boils down to patents. When a pharmaceutical company develops a new medication, it is patented. This gives the company a chance to sell the medication exclusively in an effort to recoup the money they spent developing, approving, and marketing the drug as well as earn a profit from their efforts. After the patent expires, that same medication can then be sold by other pharmaceutical companies who don’t have any cash invested in it, making the profit margin wider and allowing them to sell it for much less. You can save money every month by going generic whenever you can.

[See 5 Bad Habits to Break Before Retirement.]

3. Comparison shop more. Most of us will spend some time researching and comparing prices on big ticket items. But we often default to using stores and companies we think will land us the best deal on everyday products and services. More often than not, this is a conditioned response to a great marketing campaign and not necessarily rooted in the truth. Companies spend a lot of time and money getting your business, mostly by creating an image for the consumer segment they are targeting. Some of these so-called “value companies” have done such a great job in creating an image of offering the best quality at the lowest prices that many consumers will buy without a second thought, costing them thousands of unnecessary dollars every year. But you don’t have to play that game. The next time you head off to the store, spend some time looking through the weekly circulars and online advertisements before you commit to a location. That way, you can make sure that you are getting the very best deal every time you spend.

Incorporating these three things into your everyday spending strategy will net you some instant benefits as well as solidify good spending habits for the future, when money management is crucial. Resolve to make these tips a habit in your household in 2012, and commit to putting your savings into your retirement account.

Philip Taylor is the author of 104 Ways to Save Extra Money. Read his popular blog, PT Money: Personal Finance for more insightful money tips, like his recent suggestions for the best online checking accounts.