When it comes to being (or staying) debt free this year, limiting the tempting “eye candy” that bombards your senses may be the single BEST way to avoid a money hangover.

Here are three of the most powerful steps you can take to give yourself this gift:

  1. Change your bank/credit union’s “privacy preferences.” By federal law you’ll find a cute little “throwaway” sheet tucked in with your year-end bank statement. It’s a little fact sheet that usually has an unassuming name like “What Chase does with your personal information.” As a geek (and as your advocate) I always read the fine print. Getting my December statements made me realize you might benefit from a little guidance on this topic. Don’t be fooled or feel victimized when you read that cannot limit certain sharing. I’ll give you an easy way to limit sharing of your shopping preferences in Step 3, if you want to skip ahead! For now, read the fact sheet and follow their instructions, or go online, type in your bank’s name plus the words “privacy preference” and you’ll be able to easily find the direct link to the page to make these changes for yourself. Set all your preferences to being “limited” sharing.
  1. Stop catalogs and advertisements at home and online. Flipping pages or screens with eye-catching pictures is no less a temptation to your financial goals than browsing every item in the bakery would be to your physical goals. Same for the heart-tugging direct mail copy that goes along with the pictures! Sign up for a free account with catalogchoice.org from Trusted ID. “Unsubscribe” from company and non-profit mailings. Whether they’re places you’ve frequented in the past or just ones that bought your name and address, you can quickly eliminate most enticing mail. It also is environmentally friendly. Then visit my friends over at the Direct Mail Association (www.dmachoice.org). They offer the best ways to help companies NOT mail to you anymore if that’s what you want. And you can sign up to reduce email mailings too. All free, of course.
  1. Start taking CASH out of the ATM or your bank instead of using your debit card. By law, your bank or credit union is allowed to share marketing information about you with, well, just about everybody. Limiting the amount of times you use those 16 digits on your plastic card reduces the information that’s shared about you. Banks have done an amazing sales job on consumers, tapping into the fear of being robbed (oddly enough they don’t seem as eager to instill fear of “cyber robbery” with debit cards these days – even though that’s a larger threat as we’ve seen with Chase, Target and Home Depot just to name a few). The reason banks want you to keep using your debit and credit cards is simple: they capture information about you from every transaction. And they use that information to build massive databases about your preferences. And they use your preferences to deliver offers to match your tastes with the pinpoint accuracy of a drone strike. The less you share, the more control you keep over your finances (and your mailboxes, both real and virtual!). Paypal is a good way to pay (Shop without Sharing); just be sure to opt-out of any info sharing from the sites you buy at, including Paypal’s partners, like e-Bay!

Once you’ve taken these three steps, reward yourself by signing up for something financially inspirational, so you stay focused on creating YOUR heart’s desires this year! (Subscribing to my Inner Transformation e-newsletter is always a good choice!)