1. Don’t panic! There is no reason to stop the good financial things that you are already doing. Continue making contributions to your retirement and savings accounts. Additionally, resist the temptation to borrow from your retirement accounts.
2. Stop accumulating debt. Even if you are not able to “get ahead” during this time, doing this one thing can help make sure you don’t make your overall situation worse.
3. Maintain a positive outlook. If you have to, stop reading and watching all the bad news. That doesn’t mean you should put your head in the sand and stop paying attention completely. You can stay informed without becoming obsessed with the negativity. Remember, also, that the negative reports apply to the nation as a whole. Chances are, your specific financial circumstances are better than most.
4. Take stock. Use this opportunity to evaluate your finances and your life. Analyze your expenses and the way(s) you manage money. If there are changes you need (or want) to make, RIGHT NOW is a great time to get started.
5. Stay current on all your payments. Unless you have lost your job, you should be able to continue making the same payments you have been making. If you have any thought that you may lose your job, cut back to minimum payments on everything and stash some cash. Missing payments will prolong your financial problems so avoid that scenario at all costs.
6. Be proactive. If you do miss payments, contact the creditor ASAP to discuss the situation and possible solutions. They will be much more willing to work with you if they don’t have to track you down!
7. Concentrate on small, short-term financial goals. If there is a small bill you can pay off, do it. If you can cut your entertainment budget, do it. If you can work some overtime, do it. Anything you can do to focus on expenses you can control will be helpful. Re-examine your “non-essential” expenses and see if there are areas you can cut. Realize that none of these changes will keep you afloat for the long term. What they will do, however, is give you some momentum and motivation for maker bigger changes later, if that becomes necessary.
8. Create some luxury at home. It would be very easy to feel deprived during this time. Instead, use this time to experience luxury in your own home. Light some candles; listen to relaxing music; entertain friends, etc. Think of small things you can do to add pleasure to your home that don’t cost a lot of money. When your home is comfortable and inviting, you won’t be tempted to be spending extra money on entertainment elsewhere.
9. Don’t suffer alone. Without question, the economy is bad. But it’s bad for everyone so take comfort in that. You are not being singled out and you shouldn’t take it personally. Likewise, you shouldn’t be embarrassed or self-conscious about cost-cutting measures you employ. For once, we’re all in the same boat!
10. Slow down. It is never a good idea to hurry financial decisions. During a down turn, that’s even more true. Don’t be rushed into making a bad financial decision by thinking that there are “deals” to be had (houses, stocks, foreclosed or repossessed property). Certainly, there are deals to be had for the people with plenty of cash on hand. For the rest of us, it’s best to just wait until better news (and more cash) starts flowing.