We’re going through the worst financial crisis since the Depression, and no matter how quickly the federal government acts, chances are we’ll be feeling the pinch for a while. In the meantime, these ways to save money right now can help you feel more in control:
1. Take it to the bank
It’s true that banks aren’t the most popular American institution these days. But if you haven’t done so already, it’s essential that you start saving, even little by little, and banks are still the best place to take your money. “It’s the quickest way to ease worry,” says Michelle Evard, CFP, of Evard Financial Services, in Phoenix, Arizona. If you think you have enough cash to try a small, safe investment, you might want to think about putting some money in a CD. Go to Bank Rate for daily information on what interest rates you can get across the country on a CD.
2. Act like a millionaire
In their book The Millionaire Next Door (Pocket Books), authors Thomas Stanley and William Danko point out that “ordinary people” who save a lot of money live below their means and avoid conspicuous consumption. It’s a great example to follow: You might literally be able to spend twenty dollars on a scarf or makeup, but that’s also more than enough to buy a Series EE savings bond. Once you start thinking that way, you’ll be surprised at how much money you can save. However, Michelle Evard cautions, “Be sure not to cut out everything you enjoy. You won’t stick to it. It’s like a bad diet; you’ll end up bingeing.”
3. Call in reinforcements
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help from friends, family or neighbors. Whether it’s last-minute babysitting so you can go to an unexpected job interview, or a referral to a company or employment agency, most people are happy to help. In turn, you can offer them your help. You can also check out local community colleges, places of worship, and libraries. Chances are they have support groups, networking sessions, and even free or low-cost classes that will help you get ready for a new career or fine-tune the skills you already have.
4. Feel free
Before you spend, visit freecycle.org, a nationwide group that posts listings of free goods—everything from tool kits to exercise bikes to baby clothes. You can sign up for daily emails about what’s available in your town. Other lists of free stuff can be found on craigslist.org and, often, in the classified columns of local newspapers.
5. Learn to earn
If you’ve never read much on personal finance, now is the time to start. Finding out what kinds of savings and investments are right for you will give you confidence and help you make the kind of decisions that can make you financially comfortable for the rest of your life. And it won’t cost you a cent:
For the most basic kind of information, visit My Money.gov, a comprehensive site run by the federal U.S. Financial Literacy and Education Commission. You can order a free kit that will explain the basics of savings, investing, Social Security, and the banking system.
Personal-finance guru Suze Orman’s Web site, Suze Orman, offers tutorials on everything from credit-counseling services to the best online personal-finance calculators to help you figure out how much you’ll need to retire or buy a house. (Orman likes the calculators at CNNmoney and Kiplingers.)
Other good sites include Smart Money, which gives you an overview of the economy along with a strong personal-finance slant, and Bank Rate, one of the best comparison-shopping sites for insurance, investments and mortgage rates.
Almost everywhere we turn these days, there are big and small reminders of the bad economy: You’re suddenly buying less milk with more money. Your health insurance plan won’t be paying for the medicine your doctor prescribed just last week. But these ways to save money right now can help you keep more of your cash and feel more in control of your finances.