Financial times are tough for everyone. But don't panic. There are lots of things you can't control, but you can control how you react to it, and how you manage your finances.
1. If you have financial advisors, meet with them and make sure you have the right balance of stock and bond funds. Whatever you do, don't panic and cash out your investments and hide the moolah under your mattress.
2. Put your daily spending on a diet. Most financial advisors can help you set up a budget that will cut your spending and put more money into your emergency savings.
If you don't use Quicken to track your spending, there are some great personal finance web sites such as Wesabe, Mint, and Yodlee that will do it for you for free. Remember when you were dieting and had to write down everything you ate during the day? That approach really works with spending, too. I use a wallet-sized spending tracker sheet from Charles Schwab that I keep in the car. I write down every little purchase. It's quite an eye opener. There are things that I won't give up, like "de-graying" my hair. I also save a lot by drinking fewer lattes (great for the waistline, too), which saves me around $500 annually.
3. I shop at Safeway and save an average of $50 every week by planning my menu based on what's on sale. Go to Safeway's web site and type in your zip code, and click on weekly specials. Browse by category, and select the items you want to buy. It automatically generates a shopping list. You can also directly print manufacturer's coupons from their site - I usually save an extra $5.00 that way. All in all I can save about $2,400 every year in groceries if I plan ahead!
3. Do you really need to buy brand-new Polo and Quicksilver shirts for your kids? Sign up for TJ Maxx's store alert service and you'll get a text message or email when items come in that you're looking for. Our town has a few really nice used clothing stores for kids, such as Stone Soup - you'd be amazed at the quality of their clothes.
4. Leave your credit cards at home! If you have a clothing budget and saw a must-have winter coat on sale, bring cash just for that amount. That way you won't be tempted to buy makeup, jewelry and other crap you don't really need.
5. Look at your credit card bills and get rid of all the monthly or annual charges for stuff you can do without. Monthly movie rentals, online greeting card memberships, credit reports, all add up to a lot of moolah.
6. I'll admit it, I had an Amazon addiction. Turn off Amazon's evil 1-click setting and delete all of your credit cards. That way you have to enter in your credit card number every time you make a purchase. Better yet, buy local! If you're in Bend, check out Pegasus Books, one of my favorite stores on the planet.
7. Whatever you do, don't give up exercise. If anything, you should amp up your exercise activity during stressful financial times. However, if you're paying for a gym membership and you haven't been there in six months, it's time to cancel. Go for a walk/run outside with your friends, work out in your home, or ride a bike.
8. Make your own stuff. I go crazy for anything that has to do with Halloween or fall. Instead of buying that $150 cool autumn wreath from the florist, take a picture of it and go to Michael's. They'll help you make something similar for a fraction of the price. Halloween costumes are another thing - why are we paying $50-$80 for your child's poorly made, plasticy Halloween costume when you can make something cooler for a fraction of the price? Check out Instructables for some amazing ideas. For other home decor ideas, check out Thrifty Decor Chick's amazing blog.
9. Connect with your friends and do dinner and a movie at each other's homes! It's much cheaper than spending over $100 on a night on the town, and it's infinitely more fun.
10. Choose your vacations wisely. Instead of going to Italy this summer, we've decided to visit national parks. That's a huge cost savings, and I'm sure our kids will have a great time on our road trip. (They better, dammit!)
10.5. If you're a stay-at-home mom and are looking for some freelance gigs, check out Guru and elance for some ideas.
Stick to this mantra: spend less, exercise more, eat healthy, listen to music, read more books, and spend more time with friends and family. Blogging helps, too!