In the 1775 edition of "Poor Richard's Almanac" Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.”

That sentiment still holds true today.

We have all sorts of vices with which we could do battle these days, but two of the most important are our societal addiction to debt and disturbing lack of financial literacy.

U.S. consumers have racked up more than $182 billion in new credit-card debt and have defaulted on more than $130 billion dollars in uncollectible debt since the beginning of 2011 by which time the Great Recession was well over.

Now, the average household now owes nearly $7,126 to their credit card company.

Why? Much of the blame for our poor performance can be attributed to the lingering effects of the recession. But our limited money management skills and failure to recognize that pre-recession spending habits are no longer sustainable without the housing bubble also played significant roles. After all, what do you expect when 60 percent of adults don't have a budget and 40 percent give their knowledge of personal finance a C grade or worse, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

This is the prism through which you should be viewing your finances with the calendar now in 2015. As consumers, we must take greater control of our financial lives, pay down existing balances and adopt a debt-neutral lifestyle if we want to achieve consistent financial success. Given the time of the year that means making a few resolutions.

1. Stick to a budget

It’s impossible to control your finances if you don’t know how much money is coming in and how much is going out each month. Without that basic knowledge, you’ll have a tough time determining whether you’re spending within or beyond your means on a daily basis, let alone tracking progress toward a savings goal or ensuring that your family has enough in the bank to ride out a period of joblessness, for example.

So, your top financial priority in 2015 should be to examine your credit card and bank account transaction history in order to determine how much you are spending on average each month and on what. This will enable you to compare your expenses to your take-home and prioritize what to cut and what to keep.

2. Save at Least $300 on monthly bills

Eliminating certain frivolous expenses entirely is one way to make some room in the ol’ budget. Reducing the cost of monthly bills that you’ll continue paying is another. No one is getting the best possible deals on their cellphone, insurance, cable, Internet, mortgage, car loan, credit card and bank account after all. That means re-evaluating what you are paying, doing some comparison shopping for better deals and then replacing, renegotiating, or refinancing will enable you to pay off your debt faster or supercharge your savings.

3. Increase Savings by 10 percent

It’s important to have a number of different savings accounts each designed for a particular purpose. For example, an emergency fund, a retirement fund, and a college fund for your children. Your goal should be to end the year with 10 percent more money in each of these accounts than you started with.

Setting up automatic deposits from a checking account will help take forgetfulness and short-term spending urges out of the equation, and separating your savings needs across multiple accounts will help you keep track of your progress and stay engaged.

“To the extent that a family can open savings accounts for particular goals, it is likely to be helpful,” Dan Ariely, the James B. Duke professor of psychology and behavioral economics in the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, told WalletHub. “Once you open an account for a particular goal, you start thinking about it. It becomes a goal that everyone agrees on and tries to achieve, and it becomes a galvanizing agenda for the family and therefore creates momentum moving forward.”

4. Reduce non-mortgage debt by 15 percent

While building an emergency fund should actually be the higher priority (without one, you’re only an unexpected expense away from debt problems anyway), systematically paying off amounts owed is crucial to both cost cutting and the sustainability of your household finances. The best approach is to attribute the lion’s share of your monthly debt payment budget to the balance with the highest interest rate, while making minimum payments on all other debts. Once your most expensive debt is done away with, repeat the process until debt-free, and then divert your would-be debt payments into savings accounts.

Final thoughts

At the end of the day, it’s important to remember the psychology of resolutions. In order to bring about lasting change and avoid giving up, you’ll want to identify particular habits that you wish to change, devise a specific plan for doing so and implement a rewards system that promotes positive habits. You may even want to join forces with a friend for moral support.

“I’d encourage people to find a frugal friend, someone with whom they can talk about money and get support for their choices,” Jennifer Romich, associate professor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work, told WalletHub. “This is not an easy thing to do. We have been strongly encouraged to become consumers, and it can feel like a counter-cultural act to live within (or below) ones means.”

Money problems can also be detrimental to your physical and emotional health, so it’s certainly in the best interest of both you and your wallet to make some adjustments in the New Year.

Odysseas Papadimitriou is CEO of the personal finance websites and He previously served as a senior director at Capital One.

Odysseas Papadimitriou is a personal finance expert whose views are regularly mentioned in many major publications. He is founder and CEO of Card Hub, a leading U.S. credit card and gift card portal and Wallet Hub, a personal finance social network.