Credit Crunch: Manage Your Finances

 Taking care of yourself, both emotionally and financially may sometime mean that you may have to ask for help.

1. Get in touch with a support group or a counselor in your area. Check with friends or your local church or synagogue for suggestions if you aren't familiar with one. You'll gain strength by talking and listening to other people in financial trouble, and you'll quickly discover that you're not alone and there are many people who will help you. By all means don't get into the absurd thought pattern that you are the only person on the planet who is facing financial difficulties. In the last year alone, several million people lost their houses to foreclosure and hundreds of thousands had to declare bankruptcy. The worldwide recession has hit everyone hard, in every single country on Earth. There are many neighbors in your community who are undergoing exactly the same stresses and are facing exactly the same desperate choices. By all means seek out these people and form a support group if one already does not exist.

2. Take a beginning course in money management or personal finance. You'll find one at your local Y or an adult evening school. It won't be expensive and it will empower you to start making sound decisions.

3. Begin next week putting aside a bit of money on a regular basis so you won't be living from paycheck to paycheck. It can be as little as $10 a week. Don't agonize over the amount. The key thing is to develop the habit of saving. An easy way to do this is to sign up for an automatic savings plan at work. The dollar amount you designate will be taken out of your paycheck and deposited directly into a savings account, so you'll never miss it.  If you don't have access to such a plan at work, you can set up one with your bank.

4. Consider a second, part-time job. It shouldn't involve too much work or be too overwhelming, but this will provide you with extra money... some or all of which you can earmark for savings. Don't view it as a job from hell that you'll be stuck with forever but rather as a short suspension bridge to your new life. Perhaps work Saturdays for a local business or take care of a neighbor's children.

5. Start to save "found" money: cash gifts for your birthday or the holidays, a tax refund, a bonus, quarters in your wallet or purse at the end of each day, even the dollar amount you saved by purchasing something on sale.

6. Buy a money notebook. The first week, write down everything you spend, especially the small stuff such as to-go coffee, magazines, bus fare, snacks, flowers, pantyhose. You'll know where your money is going and where you can cut back.

7. Read and listen. Get into the habit of following business news on radio or TV three hours a week. You'll soon know the buzzwords and what's happening in our financial world so that you can be prepared!

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