Indispensable Strategies for Budgeting in a Bad Economy

In a bad economy, many people find themselves in major financial trouble. That’s not just the case with those who lose their jobs. Even people who are gainfully employed can suffer major losses in a bad economy. As a result, everyone can benefit from following a few simple strategies in a bad economy. A handful of the most effective ones are outlined below.

  1. Shop Around for a Better Bank – Switching banks seems like a huge hassle, so many people stay put even when they’re paying exorbitant fees or not enjoying very competitive interest rates. Whether the switch is simple or difficult, it will pay off if it means spending less and getting more. High-yield online savings accounts are especially useful.
  2. Set Basic Goals – When it comes to personal finances, there’s always room for improvement. With that in mind, it’s smart to constantly set new goals. That’s just as true for people who are on shaky financial footing as it is for those who are in better shape. From setting aside money for an emergency fund to paying off a mountain of debt, there are always ways to make things better. Saving up for a major expense like a new house or car is another example.
  3. Pay Less for Essentials – One solid piece of advice during a bad economy is to avoid unnecessary expenses. What about the essentials? For example, car insurance is one thing that every drive must have. As easy as it is to compare vehicle insurance online, there’s no excuse for not shopping around from time to time. Shaving even a tiny amount off of a monthly premium can result in huge savings over the long run.
  4. Opt Out of Junk Mail – Junk mail can be absolutely insidious when it comes to trying to be fiscally responsible. From credit card offers to catalogs filled with the latest gadgets, the opportunities for making major mistakes are rife. Fortunately, there are ways to cut back on junk mail. Opt-out services are available. The Consumer Credit Reporting Industry, for example, maintains a website that allows people to opt out of many types of junk mail. The same process should be used to cut back on tempting marketing emails as well.
  5. Be Diligent about Paying Off Debt – People who already have debt when a bad economy develops should make paying it off a top priority. At least 20 percent of a person’s income should be used for this purpose. Expenses can be cut elsewhere to make this possible.
  6. Save Consistently – After old debt has been paid off, at least 20 percent of a person’s income should be socked away in a savings account. Once again, the best thing to do is to put it into one of the many high-yield savings accounts that are available online.
  7. Monitor Credit Carefully – Every adult in the U.S. is entitled to one free credit report from each credit-reporting agency per year, and everyone should take advantage of it. A single mistake can have very expensive consequences, so it’s important to catch errors as early as possible. It’s even possible to sign up for credit alerts that make it especially easy to nip issues in the bud.

By implementing these simple strategies, anyone can emerge unscathed from a bad economy.

Guest poster Pete Schilling is a writer for who specializes in personal finance and insurance topics.


Money, Greed and Happiness

I want to share with you the message that was sent out today to subscribers of A Daily Dose of Happiness.  This is particularly timely because of the credit crunch that is making everyone suffer, but if you are a sensitive sort, you might not want to read any further; I am about to rain on most people’s parade.

The credit crunch is a product of – let’s not mince words – greed.  All of our greed.  We wanted more, more, more (SFX: maniacal laughter in background).  Well, we got more, more, more than we could ever hope to throw away without even opening the excess packaging.  Sooner or later we have to pay for it.  Sooner or later has arrived.

Today’s Daily Dose of Happiness Message 

You know that whole debate about money buying happiness. It gets overly simplified, like far too many things.

I recall attending a Zig Ziglar seminar a few years ago. He said, “Money is not the most important thing in life, but it comes reasonably close to oxygen.”

His point is well taken, but how much oxygen do you need? There is a point at which more oxygen can be a life-saver. There is also a point where more oxygen becomes overkill.

Likewise with money. The first dollar you make this year will be very, very important for your happiness. At some point, when your basic needs are secured, the value of money starts falling dramatically. The 100,000th dollar you make this year will likely bring some extra momentary pleasure, but is unlikely to  actually make you happier.

The key is to find the point at which money stops making you happier. Any investment of additional time to earn more money will actually reduce your happiness (more money that does not add to your happiness, less time that would have).

Any further compromise of values or principles required to earn more money will likewise reduce your happiness (more money that does not add to your happiness, less integrity that would have).

Instead of accepting that we have to pay for all the excess of the past couple decades, we want the government (that’s us, remember?) to buy us even more excess.  Yes, we in the Western world really are embarassingly spoiled rich kids.  The problem, as any credit counselor can tell you, is that you cannot spend your way out of debt.   And as we dig our way into even greater debt, I just cannot see how that creates more happiness.  I fear we are collectively handing over the keys to what I call “The Merchants of Misery” in my book, Climb Your Stairway to Heaven.