The holidays are past us and 2011 has come to an end. For many, this is the time to look forward and plan for the year ahead. Do you have any personal resolutions? Career goals? Financial commitments? Many people resolve to lose some weight and spend more time with their families. These are great goals, but don’t go into 2012 without similarly planning for your financial year.

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Even if you don’t have financial goals, it’s still important to assess your upcoming budget. Are you planning to make a large purchase, such as a car or home? Do you expect a consistent income stream? How is this coming year going to be different from the last? Doing some research, jotting down some numbers, and making a tentative budget will likely make you feel much more comfortable heading into the year. If it means checking out mortgage rates and getting free insurance quotes over the next couple weeks, it’s still a worthwhile hassle that may be appreciated down the road.

Still, it’s beneficial to have a couple overarching financial goals. If nothing comes to mind, you’re welcome to share one of mine: going green. More specifically, I want to save money by making my life more environmentally-friendly. Here’s what I plan to do:

  1. Install energy-efficient lights in my home and my office. While these lights cost more upfront, they easily translate into savings over the course of a year.
  2. Insulate my attic. Making your home better-insulated can be a costly and difficult undertaking. But, in many homes, it’s easy to add insulation to the attic. Since heat rises, doing so can greatly improve your winter heating efficiencies.
  3. Get a modern thermostat. A new generation of thermostats, made by companies such as Nest Labs, are designed to regulate a home’s temperature in a way that best maximizes energy efficiencies. As with energy-efficient lights, these products are more expensive but you allow you to easily recoup your costs.
  4. Take public transit. Taking the bus or train is often less convenient than driving a car. But, when feasible, forsaking gas costs and using public transit can result in some big savings.
  5. Eat leftovers. This may sound like a weird one, but I’ve always been adverse to eating leftovers, even though doing so can reduce one’s food costs and lower the demand for food production. I resolve to change this habit in 2012.

These are the main ways that I hope to be greener and save some money in the upcoming year. It is not my only financial goal but it is certainly one of the key ones. If you have no big plans for yourself, you may want to consider taking this advice, become more eco-friendly, and helping your wallet line in the process.

Alex Summers is a recently graduate from the University of Arkansas (SOOOOIIEEE! Go Hogs!) and is entering the foray of the world of writing. And advertiser by trade, writer in dreams, and in reality somewhere in the middle, Alex is considered to be a grounded creative or literary business professional, whichever paradox you prefer.

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