Plan your New Year’s resolution

Health/weight and finances reliably top lists of New Year’s resolutions, but I think that that is going on even more so now — everyone is freaking out about the rate of obesity in the U.S. (and into countries with U.S. influence, now) and similarly freaking out about the mortgage/housing crisis. So here’s some help.
Maybe you’re not trying to lose weight per se, but simply trying to eat better? Check out this list of foods to avoid:

Trans Fat Black List

Breads and Bread Products
Biscuits made from mix
Biscuits/rolls made from refrigerated dough
Coating mixes for fish, meat and poultry
Stuffing mixes
Taco shells
White and wheat flour breads

Breakfast Foods
Cinnamon buns
Pastries/bakery items with frosting
Toaster tarts/strudels

Fruit chews
Seasonal candy
Taffy-like candy

Cake sprinkles, decorations
Baking chips
Cakes and cake mixes
Cakes/cupcakes with icing
Ice cream cakes
Pie crusts
Pound cake
Ready-to-spread frosting
Refrigerated cookie dough

Dips and Snacks
Bean dips
Cheese and pretzel snack kits
Cheese and cracker snack kits
Chocolate or yogurt covered snack
Cookie snack kits
Corn chips
Nacho cheese dips
Microwave popcorn
Potato chips/sticks
Pretzels filled with cheese
Pudding snacks

Fast Foods
French fries
Fruit pies
Fried chicken
Fried fish sandwich
Most deep-fried fast food
Mixed meals from a box that contain buttermilk biscuit topping, cornbread topping, dumplings or pouched seasonings

Fats and Oils
Light spreads
Margarine, hard stick and tub types
Vegetable shortening, regular and butter flavor

Frozen Foods
Breaded fish sticks
French fires
Fruit pies and pie crusts
Pancakes and French toast
Pizza and pizza crusts
Pot pies

Milk and Milk Products
International and instant latte coffees
Refrigerated fat-free nondairy creamers
Refrigerated nondairy creamers
Whipped toppings

Salad and Salad Dressing
Prepared salad dressing

Soups and Stews
Bouillon cubes
Boxed onion soup and dip mix
Ramen noodle and soup cups

Note: Some of these products may not contain trans fats, however, you must read your ingredient listing. Check for the term “hydrogenated” to determine their presence in the food product.

The list is a little hard to stomach, so to speak. For me, what really hurts is that I should ban Ramen noodles and refrigerated non-dairy creamers. Um, if I ban everything else, can I keep those two in my life????

On the finances front, I’ve been reading more and more about the housing bust, plus about how to save more personally and trim my expenses.

CNNMoney via Yahoo Finance shows you how to get rich with a number of money-saving steps that take just 35 minutes. I’m happy to report that I’m already saving money by using a water filter (which I’ve been doing for years, actually), but a lot of this stuff, I have yet to do. Like the tip about my cable bill:

Demand a lower cable bill

Time it takes: 15 minutes

Okay, it’s not as simple as that – but almost. Call and complain that your bill is too high; repeat your message calmly (“This just isn’t worth it to me anymore”). Make sure to casually use the words “satellite dish” (as in “I wonder how that compares with a satellite dish”) or maybe “phone company.” This strategy translated into a $20 monthly discount (for a year) in our test.

I wonder if this would work for my cell phone plan, too? Heheh.

Your finances resolution may have something to do with saving money or saving for retirement. Thinking you’d like to retire a millionaire? Another article shows you how. As for saving money, I have a pretty simple solution that actually runs counter to the previous article I linked to — I set my IRS exemptions at single, 1, rather than married, so I get a hefty refund back. If you don’t have any debt, stick that refund in a high-yield CD. For my part, we have some credit card debt we’re working on, so my refund is mostly going to that. This IRS plan really kills two birds with one stone — you make sure you don’t owe the IRS any money (because I did before, which is why my exemption was set like that in the first place) and you force yourself to save.

And as a bonus, to make a little money, start a blog. Or, if you already have one, get some advertising — its so easy now to sign up for free programs like Kontera or Text Link Ads or the juggernaut, Adsense. I’ve had the most luck so far with Adsense and Text Link Ads, but the drawback with Adsense is that you don’t get any money until you earn $100. With Text Link Ads, you get whatever you make at the end of each month.

Happy New Year!