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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

How To Avoid a Personal Bailout

By Linda Seamore

As we move into the New Year, our national economy is in shambles. It is more important now than ever before to protect your finances as well as your identity. So to get you started off right, here are some tips and ideas to get your financial stuff in order.

1. Separate Needs from Wants. Financial security and independence relies heavily on being a smart spender. Don't, for example, eat out when you can cook at home. Eating is a need but eating out is a want. Being thrifty is truly a necessity. Pay close attention to discounts for things you need, and clip coupons whenever possible.

2. Have a cash stash that is equal to approximately 6 months of living expenses. Average out your utilities, food and other expenses and save some for a rainy day. Put a little back each payday in an account that you cannot touch or dig into. This is your emergency fund and shouldnt be touched unless it is absolutely necessary. If you DO dig into the fund, that money needs to be replaced as soon as possible.

3. Categorize your bills and start to pay them down or totally off. Start with personal loans, then move onto credit cards. It is important that these responsibilities be taken care of as quick as possible. The interest accrued by credit cards and loans is staggering over the span of the life of the loan.

4. Protect your Identity. Identity theft has become the crime of choice in recent years. It costs victims on estimated 6 billion dollars a year to pay for identity theft. You can protect your money and your identity with a service like Life Lock. Life Lock is a service that guarantees protection of your credit backed by $1,000,000 to you if they don't. They help to reduce the amount of credit card offers you receive and pro-actively monitor your credit.

5. To discourage dipping into your savings needlessly, put your savings into CDs, money markets or other tax deferred accounts. If you dont have access to the money, you wont deplete it needlessly.

6. Write out a budget and stick to it no matter what. This is so super easy to do. Label several jars with categories like "eating out", "movie night", or "entertainment". Every payday, put $40 in each jar. That will be your allowance for that particular category. When the jar runs out, you have to wait until the next pay day to replace the money and your budget for that item. This sounds tough, but it can really be of benefit to your finances.

The current world economy is in bad shape. That is no big, sensitive secret. As a result, we have already seen government bailouts of major companies we thought would always be there. Dont let that happen to you in 2009. Follow a simple budget, look for deals and just spend smarter.

If you are careful with your money, you won't need a bailout. Maybe, you will one day be teaching CEOs how to run the finances of a company!

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