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Slim your wallet and your waistline with a 2014 spending diet

Use what you have in your pantry and don’t succumb to convenience foods at the store.

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"It was a luxurious splurge. See, even in the midst of being frugal, you can indulge with things you have around the house. Wear your special clothes. Use the family silver. Listen to your music collection. Use your scrapbooking supplies. Most of us have a lot of stuff that we think we’re going to use someday. Well, now is that ‘someday.’

"And by the end of the month, you’ll have a bunch of money that you can put into savings, or to pay off credit card debt, or put toward a vacation. Instead of frittering money away on little stuff, you’ll have a big chunk that you can do something meaningful with. And once you have that feeling, you’ll want to have it again."

At a glance

January money diet

Try these January Money Diet tips from Eliza Cross. Want more? Go online to happysimpleliving.com, and click on “January Money Diet.”

Shop at home » Use up those dusty products lurking in cabinets and pantries instead of saving them for Someday.

Avoid temptation » Don’t go to the mall, surf eBay or read shopping-oriented magazines for entertainment, and DO plug your ears during commercials.

Seek out free things to do and learn » The first Saturday of each month is an admission-free day at the Denver Art Museum. (Watch Page 2C of the $mart section each week for more such days.) Many businesses, including Home Depot and Whole Foods, offer free classes.

Plan meals carefully » Shop with a list after making your meal plan.

Cook from scratch to save money » It’s cheaper to make pizza than it is to buy it, and you’re less likely to wolf down cookies when you know how much work went into each one.

Get radical about saving heat » Turn down the thermostat another degree or two. Wear warm sweaters indoors. Take advantage of passive solar heat by opening up all the blinds and drapes on the south and west sides of the house on sunny afternoons. Turn down the thermostat another degree before going to bed.

Rearrange your furniture » Rotate your accessories for a fresh look.

Declutter » Give things away to those less fortunate, Cross suggests. “Being on a money diet doesn’t mean we can’t still be generous.”

Figure out your net worth » “It’s the only way to get honest about the true state of your finances,” Cross says. She encourages her readers to figure their net worth on the first of every month.

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