“Spend less” and “save more” are perennial standards on those annual lists of the 10 most-popular New Year’s resolutions. We tell ourselves this will be the year we’ll plug the leaks in our pocketbooks and sock away more money for bigger and better things down the road. One way to take the pain out of tightening our purse strings is to be a smarter consumer; and we can start to do that by creating a value system to guide our buying behavior.

Here are 10 ways to be a smarter consumer in 2014:

  1. It’s all about moderation. During the holidays, it’s easy to lose our bearings, but the New Year is the perfect time to hit the Reset button.
  2. Research purchases. One of the great things about the Internet revolution is the ability to thoroughly research items before buying. By taking advantage of product reviews on sites like, we make smarter financial decisions and create less waste.
  3. Quality over quantity. Get more bang for your buck by investing a little more in a nicer product that will last longer.
  4. Buy local. It not only keeps your dollars in your neighborhood, but also reduces the energy consumption needed to hike products across the country or even the world. Checking local product reviews increases the chances you’ll get what you need.
  5. Substance matters. If it reflects your own values, search for environmentally responsible products and companies. Consider it an investment in an eco-friendly lifestyle.
  6. Google that broken appliance. Odds are someone else has had the same problem. The fix isn’t always buying a new one. Look for social recommendations. I’ve found repair advice on YouTube for cars, dishwashers, washing machines, garbage disposals, and leaky faucets. The fix-it-yourself information is out there.
  7. Consider the shelf life of products in your home. Stop adding to the “stuff.” Carefully consider each item. Instead of asking, “Where could this go?” think to yourself, “How will my life be without this?” If the answer is anywhere near a shoulder shrug, save your money.
  8. Size doesn’t matter. All purchases, large or small, have a place in the value system, be it a new car or a brand of hot dogs. Let your “smarter consumer” pendulum swing far and wide, not just towards big purchases.
  9. Plant something that you consume. San Francisco instituted a citywide project where every resident was asked to plant a lemon tree, figuring it’s an easy thing to grow. It’s one less item for the grocery list. Consider what you can plant, craft, or create at home before going to the store.
  10. Buy used when appropriate. One man’s junk is another man’s treasured eBay find.