It's a mess out there. Unemployment is higher than it's been in 60 years, and the U.S. dollar is losing value at an alarming rate. If that's not bad enough, fears abound that taxes will be heading north for all workers, even while the United States continues to find itself in a deep, protracted recession.

On that happy note, let's turn to the subject at hand. What can we do, you and I, individually, to turn this economy around? In a word: Nothing. What you spend this week, how much you save or burn up in gasoline is not going to make one bit of difference to the U.S. economy.

But we can make a big difference for our individual economic pictures. Add that to what our friends, families, neighbors, colleagues and communities do, and we're looking at the cumulative effect, which can make a difference.

Here is a list of specific things that all of us can do, starting today, to get things back on track in our personal lives. That is how we will affect the larger picture:

Stop living on plastic. Please, just stop spending more money than you have. No matter now difficult your financial picture is right now, adding to your debt is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It is going to make things even worse.

Get out of debt. I'm talking about your unsecured consumer debt. Nothing but higher interest rates and increased fees are coming down the pike. You cannot afford to be in debt. Make a commitment today to do whatever you must to remove that financial bondage from your life.

Rein it in. Yes, you've cut your expenses. Sure you are becoming more frugal than ever. Great. Now, double your efforts. I'm serious. Whatever you are doing now, you can do better. Challenge every expense, every purchase. Is it really necessary? Can you do something else instead? Can you at least wait a few more days? Get tough on yourself. What you do not spend is money you can use to build your emergency fund or pay down debt.

"No" is the word. Place it firmly on the tip of your tongue during the new year: "No!" Use it often when you are tempted to spend foolishly. Just say "No!" to anything that you cannot buy with cash. Say "No!" to anything that will impede your efforts to save and pay off debt. Keep it handy. It will save you a lot of grief, and allow you to make economic progress this year.

Work more. Forget early retirement. Instead, figure out how you can work more, and even years longer. This is going to be a year of extra effort, not a time to ease off.

Buy American. We need to get manufacturing and production to return to the USA as soon as possible. When it fits within your budget to buy goods and services, let's do everything we can to buy American. Look for companies that are producing products for homes and families at websites like StillMadeinUSA.com and MadeinUSA.com.

Do you have ideas on how we can work together to help the economy? Join the conversation at my blog, Money Rules, Debt Stinks!