How to Get a Job

Posted by T | 11:35 PM | 0 comments »

Awhile back, I posted an article about what to do when you lose your job. I got a lot of good positive feedback on that post, but I also got some criticism. The criticism went something like this: "That's just career advice about how to keep your job or network, but it doesn't tell you how to go about getting another job."

As the U.S. plunges deeper into recession, jobs are evaporating before our very eyes. Each day we are hearing about another company that is dumping thousands of jobs. Although I'm not a big fan of Starbucks, I was sorry to see that they are cutting even more jobs and closing additional stores. This means that there are people out there who need to find another job. With the unemployment rate creeping toward ten percent, that's going to be increasingly hard to do.

As I mentioned before, I went through a six month bout of unemployment during the recession of 1991. In hindsight, I did everything wrong while trying to get another job. Hopefully, you'll be able to learn from my mistakes, do the opposite thing, and find yourself gainfully employed again.

Here are the mistakes I made, and what I SHOULD have done:

1. I actually turned down work. Yes, that's right. About two weeks after losing my job, I was offered another one. It paid about the same as what I had been making. So why didn't I take it? I thought it wasn't as prestigious as the job I once had. Money notwithstanding, it was something of a step down. This was a huge mistake. I should have taken the job, and then continued to look while I was working. At least I would have been earning a paycheck.

2. I didn't look for work every day. When another job opportunity didn't present itself, I got depressed and frustrated, and thought that maybe I just wasn't as good at my job as I thought I was. I stopped looking for work and spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself. What I should have done was treated my job search as my new job. When you are unemployed, you actually have a sales job. The product you are selling is yourself. How would you market a product? How would you get the word out? If you don't talk to people about our product and let them know it's available, you aren't going to make any sales. The same applies to finding a job.

3. I kept sending out the same resume over and over again. I often see this quote in news articles about people who have been unemployed for a long time: "Yes, this economy is terrible. I have sent out 100 resumes and I haven't received a singe response." This probably has less to do with the economy and the quality of the candidate, and more to do with the resume itself. If you are sending out hundreds of resumes and nobody is biting, your resume probably stinks. Spend a few dollars of your unemployment check and have a professional write one for you, along with a snappy cover letter. If your resume doesn't attract attention, you're in for a long bout of unemployment.

4. I didn't tell my friends I was unemployed. I didn't tell anyone I knew that I was out of work, because I was embarrassed. I felt like a failure, and I didn't want anyone to know. Fast forward a few years, when I was fired from a job when the company I worked for was sold to a competitor. I told EVERYONE I knew that I was out of work. I emailed people, called them on the phone...they all knew. "Hey Bob...look, I'm on the beach. Yep, lost my job. Do you know anyone who's hiring?". Within a week, I had another job.

5. I relied on "want ads". Every week, I would grab the Sunday paper, look through the want ads and say "well, there aren't any jobs for me this week, either." Then I would wait for the paper to come out next Sunday. These days, people rely on online want ads like Monster.com. That's OK, but don't let it be your sold means of finding out about work opportunities. Check with professional organizations that are related to your field of work. Their web sites usually have job listings. Make use of the local employment office, temp agencies, and web sites of companies you would like to work for. In my case, I picked up the Yellow Pages and just started calling companies cold on the phone, asking if they were hiring. The very last number I called panned out. They told me they were hiring and they wanted me to come to their office the next week. I got the job.




I have always been a big fan of coupons...when they are used the right way. Some people say they save a lot of money using coupons, but the truth is they are using coupons to purchase things they would not otherwise buy. That is not the proper way to use coupons.

In short, coupons are like using "free money" when they are used to buy things you would normally put in your shopping cart. Combine the manufacturer's coupons with store coupons, buy items when they are on sale and use the coupons during the store's "double coupon" day, and you can get some great deals.

My wife is the "coupon queen" in our house. I have literally seen her buy $120 worth of groceries for about $15 using coupons. When we left the store, we felt like we had broken some kind of law, but of course we hadn't. She also gets some great deals with her CVS card and "extra value" bucks that are printed on the store receipts.

Coupon usage is up these days, which is no surprise considering the state of the economy. I used to clip coupons from the Sunday paper, but to be honest many of the coupons I find in there now are for things I would not otherwise buy. I now pick and choose my coupons online, and I make use of the coupons and discounts available through UPromise.com, which also puts money into my kid's college fund. There are also many sites where you can find coupon codes for making your online purchases.

In short, use these methods for proper couponing:

1. Combine manufacturer coupons with store coupons and sales for maximum saving.
2. Don't use coupons for things you would not normally buy.
3. Search for coupons online.
4. Don't forget coupon codes for online purchases.
5. Find out the sales days at your local supermarket. At my local supermarket, the sales always start on a Wednesday.

My annual review is coming up at my job, and I typically get a cost-of-living increase to go along with it. It's not a huge some of money, but I do appreciate the fact that my salary has increased each year I have been with the company, while other people have no job at all.

Getting the cost-of-living increase is no big deal. It's pretty much automatic after the review and it has been determined I have done a good job during the previous year, which I always have. I have also received other pay increases after speaking with the boss and stating the case that my work is actually worth more to the company, and (luckily for me), he agreed.

But now, times are tough, in general. As we hear on the news each day, the U.S. is in the midst of TheWorstEconomicCrisisSinceTheGreatDepression (I was trying to come up with a catchy name for our current recession, but this is what it's usually called). Are employees fooling themselves by asking for a raise NOW? The answer is: it depends. There are a few ways of approaching your employer on the subject of pay raises, even with the current cloud of uncertainty in our economy.

Do your best work. This means more that what is usually expected of you. If you have consistently gone above and beyond the call of duty, you're a keeper as far as The Boss is concerned.

Let The Boss know YOU have done the heavy lifting. It's all well and good that you landed the big account at work, or came up with an idea to save the company big money, but it means little if The Boss doesn't know who should get the credit. I can't tell you how many times in the past co-workers and my immediate supervisors have passed off my ideas as their own. I don't mean you should run into your boss's office to brag about yourself, but do keep a paper trail and be prepared to use it when you negotiate a pay increase.

Think about compensation other than cash. OK, so maybe there have been some layoffs at work, but you feel you are still due some compensation for working 10 hour days and getting results. If the company can't fork over more money, ask about an increase in vacation time, sick days, flexible work schedule, tele-commuting from your house one day a week, if it's feasible. Maybe you just want a better office or a longer lunch break. Employers want to keep their best workers, and they may be willing to consider it.

Consider a promotion with a raise to come later. If the company has put a freeze on salaries, try for a promotion. Perhaps you could be bumped up the company ladder, given a better title and the ability to move into a bigger office with your own reserved parking space, with the understanding your salary will increase at a later date to be agreed upon (in writing) by you and your employer.

Consider waiting. Maybe you work for a company that has just laid off 1,000 employees. OK, now may not be the best time to ask for a raise, but you can keep a file and build your case that you are worth more money when things do improve at your place of work. If worse comes to worse and YOU are the one being laid off or your company goes under, you'll have compiled a good list of achievements to place on your resume.

By now, you have probably heard that Circuit City is closing up shop. All of their U.S. stores will close, victims of the current economic crisis and what some have called ill-fated business decisions (pay-per-vew DIVX, for example).

You may be wondering "where does that leave my Circuit City gift card and/or warranty?" Well, here's the skinny:

If you have a Circuit City gift card, you can use it while the stores sell off their remaining merchandise during their liquidation sales. You'd better hurry, thought. Those are expected to end sometime in March. After that, the stores will close and your gift card won't be worth the plastic it's printed on.

There is better news for the extended warranties. Those will still be good, even after the stores close. That's because the warranties are backed by a third party, NOT Circuit City.

Go here to find out more information about the Circuit City store closings, and how they might affect your warranties, gift cards or merchandise you have purchased at Circuit City.

Long-time readers of Savvy Frugality might be surprised by today's headline. After I'll, Savvy Frugality is usually recommending that people hang on to their hard-earned money, put it in emergency savings and invest it for the future. Well, sure...you should be doing all of those things. After all, we really don't NEED to buy all of the stuff we are buying. That's why credit card debt is such a big problem in the U.S.

However, if you already have the money, and you actually do need to make a significant purchase, there is no better time than the present. You might be thinking "What? That's crazy! We're experiencing the worst economy since the Great Depression!" Actually, only certain sectors of the economy are experiencing hard times. There are segments of the population which, so far, have been largely unaffected by the current economic crisis. That doesn't mean times aren't hard in the U.S. right now. They certainly are. They are just more difficult for some people right now than others, depending upon what region of the U.S. you live in and what you do for a living. For example, now is not a great time to work for an auto manufacturer or mortgage lender. While some are speculating the current recession will last another year or two, other economists say that the second half of 2009 could actually see the U.S. beginning to recover from its current economic woes.

But, I digress. Why should you buy stuff now? Five reasons:

1. Homes are on sale! Banks have to do something with all of those foreclosures, and with the housing market in the tank sellers are desperate to unload their homes. If you have a decent credit rating and are in need of a home, this is actually a great time to buy a house.

2. Cars are on sale! They aren't just on sale, car dealerships are frantically trying to get people on the lot to unload their merchandise. Some dealerships are even offering "buy one, get one free" deals. When is the last time you saw that? Probably never. Of course, we've previously mentioned Hyundai's deal: if you lose your job within a year of buying a new Hyundai, just take it back to the dealership, no questions asked.

3. Stocks are on sale! Yeah, my stocks got hammered, along with everybody else's. But, I'm still buying. Why? Stocks are relatively cheap these days. Almost all of the so-called blue chip stocks are selling for much less than they are worth. The stock prices will go up again, someday. Wait too long to get in on the market, and you risk missing out on those gains.

4. Retailers need the business. As a result, they are offering some pretty good deals on the stuff they sell. Some retailers will even haggle over the price on the tag, and that includes big-ticket items like electronics and appliances. If you need it, and you have the cash (for God's sake, don't run up your credit card right now), this is a good time to take advantage of these deals. Retailers who are efficient, can run lean, and offer good deals will weather the current storm. Those who can't (Circuit City, Linens 'n Things), won't.

5. Bottom line: if you're a buyer, times are good. If you're a seller...not so much. The term "buyers' market" is being applied to many areas of the economy right now. That means that sellers aren't getting full value for the stuff they are selling, but buyers are getting great deals. If you need it, if you can afford it, and if you have the cash...there are some great bargains to be had. We listed just a few examples, but there are many others. Deals like this don't come around often. Unfortunately, the deals come at the expense of some hard-hit businesses.

While I was reviewing my New Year's resolutions from last year, I mentioned that one of my biggest expenses for the year was veterinary care for my four pets. I have three dogs and a cat. Last year, I estimate I spent between $3,000 - $4,000 for veterinary health care for all four animals, which put a serious dent in my emergency fund. This year is getting off to a similar start.

First, my Border Terrier injured one of his dew claws, and treatment was more than $200. Then, my cat got seriously ill. He was wheezing and lost a lot of weight. When we brought him in to the vet, we were informed he had lung and ear infections, and had lost more than two pounds, which is a lot of weight for a 10 pound cat to lose. Total bill: $400, although the vet wanted to run additional tests which would have pushed the bill over $1,000. We got the bare minimum treatment for the cat.

Since the month of January isn't over yet and we have already spend more than $600 for veterinary care, my wife and I have made the decision to invest in pet health insurance. I went online and researched a few companies, and found one that I think will work best for us. Total premium each month: $125, or about $1,400 for the year with the multi-pet discount.

Here is how it works: we bring the pets to the veterinarian for regular check-ups and illnesses, and pay the vet bill. Then, we send the bill and receipts to the pet insurance company for reimbursement. The insurance company reimburses 80 percent of allowed expenses, just like an insurance company for humans. If I had this insurance last year, I would have paid about $1,000 for pet care for the year, instead of the estimated $5,000.

The insurance quotes are for three of our four pets. My oldest dog is 14 years old and insuring him would be more expensive, of course. Besides, other than injuring his dew claw, he has never been sick a day in his life. He spends most of his day sleeping.

While I am creating another monthly bill, in the long run, this will save my family (and we consider our pets members of the family) a lot of money.

I have to admit, I have felt a bit immune to the housing crisis this past year because, well...I don't own my own home. I don't pay a mortgage, and in fact I don't even pay rent. No, I'm not living in a box. I live in a home owned by my father-in-law.

He purchased the home as his retirement home about a year ago. At the time, he didn't plan to retire for about two to three years. He let my wife and I live in the home until he was ready to retire, so we figured we had plenty of time to stick aside our cash and save for a down payment on our own home.

During the past year, we have been using our savings from not paying rent to pay down debt, and we also had some unexpected expenses which came up, mainly veterinarian bills for our three dogs and our cat. Yes, we are animal lovers and they are like members of our family. I know, I used to roll my eyes when people would say their pets are like their kids, but I love our pets and not taking care of their health when they are sick is just not an option for me. I also could not get rid of any of our animals. That would be like asking me to give away my wife or one of my children. Our oldest dog has been living with us for 14 years.

But, I digress. This past week we were informed that my father-in-law and his wife plan to move into their house in about two months. Originally, they had promised to give us six months notice when they planned to move. Whoops.

This puts us in a bind for sure. Not only do I have to find a new place to live in the next two months, but I will have to either start paying rent again, or a mortgage. I have never been a homeowner because my previous profession had my family moving once every two to three years. I have money in the bank, but certainly not enough to pay for a down payment on a house.

We now have a few options:

Rent: When it comes to real estate, this is actually the worst deal. You are putting money in your landlord's pocket, and you are not building up equity in your own real estate. Considering the state of today's real estate market, renting may not be so bad, but on the other hand there are good housing deals to be had. I can't rent an apartment because of the pets. One or two pets might fly with a landlord, but not four. This might also make renting a house difficult, too. Even if a landlord does allow pets, there is usually a pet deposit of about $200 per animal. I would have to pay $800, on top of a security deposit and first and last month's rent. Pricey.

Buy: I could buy a home, but this presents a few problems. I am still paying down debt (medical bills, mostly), and as a result my credit score is not the greatest (about 630, the last time I checked). I do still have a VA housing loan available to me due to my prior military service, so it might be possible to get a home with no down payment, but I believe I would still have to pay closing costs, which can still be several thousand dollars. I can save some money in the next two months, but that's a tall order on top of finding a home and moving.

Manufactured housing: Well, I do live in Oklahoma, and there are many manufactured housing communities (i.e. trailer parks) in the area. Manufactured housing has actually come a long way since my mom lived in a trailer park when I was 12 years old. However, trailer homes rarely appreciate in value (unless it's sitting on your own land, then the land goes up in value, not the home). When you resell, you usually take a loss, like selling a car. Also, you can't just put a manufactured house anywhere. It either has to go in a trailer park or on your own plot of land (if zoning laws allow it). I could probably purchase a manufactured house, put it in a community, and pay about $600 per month for the house and the lot rent combined. That also included water and sewerage hookups. Due to the amount of time I have to work with, I'm considering this as a short-term option, even if I just rent.

Rent-to-own: This is actually widely available where I live. You rent a house, but a portion of the rent goes to purchase the house. Typically, you either pay a down payment at the beginning of the lease period and then make rental payments, usually for a term of 6 months to 2 years, until you are able to secure financing to purchase the house. The downside: the down payment can be steep, and the rental payments don't reduce the purchase price of the house by much. It's very expensive.

Plan of action: First, I will have to order my credit report and score, to see where I stand. Next, I have to submit my VA loan paperwork, to prove I am eligible. Then it's a matter of talking to my bank or credit union to see if I am eligible to receive financing, considering the state of my credit report and credit score. Then, it's time to go house-hunting. At the same time, I'll explore the manufactured housing option. Honestly, that only works for me if I can purchase the land/home package. Even some trailer parks frown on pets, especially when one household has four of them.

No matter what, this is not the best scenario in which to buy a house. I have a deadline, a short amount of time to find and purchase a house, and don't know if I will even qualify for the loan due to my family's medical bills.

I mentioned previously that Hyundai is offering a "job loss insurance" deal to get customers back on the lot: buy or lease a new Hyundai, and if you lose your job during the first year you have it you can take it back to the dealer and stop making payments with no penalties. Other dealerships are offering "buy one, get one free" deals...yes, on cars. Some are offering big rebates or "pay what our employees pay" deals. It all sounds pretty good, but is it REALLY a good deal.

The answer is, it depends. If you're in the market and you REALLY need a car, the Hyundai deal isn't so bad, but you should probably steer clear of the "buy an SUV, get a free car" deal. Depending on the make and model of the car, it may not be a great deal. After all, if your car is spending a lot of time in the repair shop, is it really a good deal?

Savvy Frugality's recommendation: if you are in the market for a new car and you can afford it, good deals can be had, but read the fine print. If you are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, look for another alternative. Good used cars can always be found, and if worse comes to worse and your city has a great public transportation system, you may not need a car at all (if I still lived in New York or Norfolk, VA...two cities with good bus systems, I wouldn't even bother owning a car).

Check out more on these car deals in the video:

How desperate are automakers to to sell their cars? One of them will take the car back if you get canned at work.

Hyundai has started something new this week called the "Hyundai Assurance Program". Basically, if you buy or lease a new Hyundai using their finance program at the dealership and then lose your job within a year of taking the keys, Hyundai will take the car back with no penalties. It's their way of offering a little peace of mind during this uncertainly economy, when people are steering clear of large-ticket purchases like cars.

Hyundai says the program is complementary and available to everyone who buys or leases a new Hyundai automobile. If, God forbid, you lose your job within a year of buying the car, you just bring it back to the lot, hand over the keys, and stop paying the loan.

Job-loss insurance is certainly nothing new in the car sales industry. For example, I have something similar with my Kia, although a portion of my loan payments cover the job-loss plan. Also, I don't get to give the car back. It simply covers my payments while I'm unemployed. Once I get a job, the payments start back up again.

It's actually not a bad idea. If you really need to get a car, I suppose it's one way of gaining some peace of mind. However, if I absolutely had to buy a car right now, I'd probably opt for a used vehicle rather than a new one, and I would pay for that sucker in cash. It would certainly be cheaper in the long run.

I predict you'll see other automakers follow suit (are you listening, GM?). To survive during 2009, a year predicted to see a further deepening of the current recession, automakers will have to try new things to get customers back on the sales lot again.

Savvy Frugality Recommended Reading: 2009...just like 2008, only worse.

Top 10 Scams of 2008

Posted by T | 7:44 PM | | 0 comments »

Maybe it was the holidays, or the fact that the economy has taken a tumble, but I have noticed a lot more spam, and scam, emails winding up in my account's inbox. I have been receiving so much spam, in fact, that my junk mail filter can't even siphon it all into the "junk" file in my email accounts.

It's not my imagination, either. Scams are on the increase. A down economy is a ripe opportunity for some unscrupulous people to try to rip off the unsuspecting consumer. Everybody is looking to make more money these days...including the crooks.

With that in mind, the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois has compiled a list of the Top Ten Scams of 2008. I think I have seen almost all of these pop up in my email, or I have heard of someone getting ripped off by them in the news. Perhaps you have, too.

1. Check Scams. Realistic-looking checks wind up in your snail mail, supposedly from a lottery or promotion you never entered, but hey....you won! All you have to do is send a check back to the sender to cover the taxes. Wrong! The check you received is bogus. The check you sent back, unfortunately, was not.

2. Advance fee lenders. These crooks offer quick loans with approval in just 24 to 48 hours. They might even have a snazzy-looking website. All you have to do is send a check to cover fees. Bad idea. The victim never sees the loan, but again, the crooks have your check.

3. Mortgage Foreclosure Rescue Scams. Well, the vultures are out in full force with this one, preying on homeowners who are facing losing their homes. These scam artists contact the foreclosed homeowner out of the blue (using information from public records) and say they know of a loophole that will help them save their house. All they have to do is pay some upfront funds (or hand over personal info like a Social Security number). Not only does the homeowner still lose their house, but they lose their money, too.

4. Credit Repair and Debt Negotiation Scams. The crooks offer promises of getting a certain percentage of your debt forgiven or reduced, and that they can get negatives deleted from your credit report if you just pay them some money. Wrong. Not only do these scamsters not repair your credit, but they could actually do more damage to your credit rating.

5. Work-at-home and fake job offers. These guys promise big bucks for doing little work. The catch: just pay them a fee for investments, training kits or other materials. Even if you do receive the "training kits" the information is usually worthless. Not only did you not make big bucks, but you have lost money, too.

6. Phishing and fake e-cards. Hey, somebody sent you an e-card! Cute. All you have to do to get it is enter a bunch of sensitive info into a web site. What? Phishing is even meaner. The consumer might receive an email that says there is a "security threat" or that the consumer's bank account is in danger of being closed (some of these scams say your Paypal account is going to be closed). Want to keep you account open? Just click on this link and confirm your account information. Don't do it! Banks and Paypal will never email you to "confirm" your info.

7. Mystery and Secret shopper scams. My wife actually worked as a secret shopper for awhile, so there are legitimate companies out there that do this. And then there are these guys. They'll help you find the mystery shopper jobs, for a fee. Legitimate services might have you register with them, but they'll never ask for money. They want you to work for them, and they'll pay you.

8. Phony directories and Yellow Pages. This is one I've actually never heard of. Soliciters call small business to "renew" their listing in the Yellow Pages. Turns out they aren't from "that" Yellow Pages and now they want money for their service, usually hundreds of dollars. If business don't pay, they get sent to a collection agency and face damage to their credit rating.

9. Goverment loans and grants. Have you seen the infomercial with Matthew Lesko, the guy who wears a suit with question marks all over it, and he sells a book which will help you find all kinds of government loans and grants? That guy is legit. It's the emails that pop up in your inbox which promise they can help you locate all of the "free" government cash (for a price) that are sketchy. Some of them are downright expensive, but the bottom line is that ANYBODY can find ANY of this information on their own, for free.

10. Bogus weight loss products. Take your pick. There is no shortage of scam weight loss products being offered to the public. Here is some free weight loss advice which I used to lose 30 pounds earlier this year: eat less, exercise more. I just saved you hundreds of dollars.

This isn't in the Top Ten list, but I'll add one of my own, only because I get these emails every single day. It's usually from somebody in Nigeria who says a "long lost relative" of mine has died and left me millions of dollars. All I have to do is send them money to help facilitate the bank transfer.

The bottom line is this: don't pay upfront fees for any of these services, especially if you didn't contact them in the first place; make sure the people you are dealing with are who they say they are, and don't expect something for nothing. You know the old saying: if it's too good to be true, it usually is.

As we begin a new year, we want to make Savvy Frugality bigger, faster, and stronger (kind of like the Six Million Dollar Man! OK, I'm dating myself). I hope that the posts at Savvy Frugality over the past year have given you some good advice and helped you in some way.

If you have benefited from the advice here at Savvy Frugality, please take a moment to comment on this post and let us know how, or send an email to savvyfrugality at hotmail.com. Replace the word "at" with a "@", of course.

Of course, if you have any comments or suggestions about the types of tips you would like to see on Savvy Frugality over the next year, we'd love to hear those, too! Your feedback will help determine the future direction of Savvy Frugality. You can even let us know if you like things just the way they are.

Thanks in advance, and I look forward to reading your comments and success stories!

One thing that is a constant on personal finance sites, TV and radio shows and blogs is that there are always experts who will tell you what you should do, but not necessarily what you shouldn't do. When I was growing up, I wish that one of my parents would have been financially savvy enough to pass along some personal finance "don'ts" that I had to learn myself the hard way. Hopefully, I will help save you a lot of time, trouble and effort by passing along these "don'ts" all of which have personally cost me a lot of money at some point or other in my life.

1. Don't spend more than you earn. That seems like a no-brainer, right? But, people spend more than they earn all the time. Anytime you buy something with a credit card and then don't pay off the balance right away, you are spending money you don't yet have. Whenever you purchase something spontaneously, even if you don't have the money for it, you are spending more than you earn. This is the number one thing that gets people into financial trouble. This is why there is so much credit card debt in the U.S. I used to spend more than I earned, and it led to nothing but misery.

2. Don't base your investments on the "in" thing. Remember when dot-coms were really hot, and then real estate? You know the old saying, "what goes up must come down". Both of these hot investment areas eventually went bust. The best investments are usually the boring ones: stocks from good companies that have a history of steady growth and dividend payments. Find a good index fund, put your money in it, and "set it and forget it". I used to follow hot stock tips. Now, I buy stocks in companies whose products I personally use or whose business I understand well.

3. Don't forget to save. It's easy to spend money, but harder to save it. If you have nothing in a savings account, now is the time to start. It doesn't matter what you save from each paycheck, but save SOMETHING. In fact, make it automatic. Set up an automatic deduction for savings. After awhile, you won't even miss it. I never used to save any cash at all. Now, I stick away a minimum of ten percent of my income each month.

4. Don't panic. Many economists are predicting things will get better with the U.S. economy before they get better. In fact, one recent report said that unemployment could hit 10 percent this year. It has been decades since we've seen unemployment numbers that high. It's possible you could be affected. Don't panic. Take pre-emptive steps now to make sure you'll be prepared in the future, in case the worst happens. Build your savings account, update your resume, expand your network or at least stay in touch with the people in your professional network, develop "side" businesses, explore freelance work, etc. Try to do at least one thing each week that will help strengthen your finances and career in the future.

I used to work in broadcasting, a volatile business, to say the least. There is no job security in broadcasting, but I never looked past the job I currently had at the time. Only when I started planning out my career and building my own personal professional network of contacts was I able to land on my feet and get another job when one went sour or disappeared.

5. Don't stop saving for retirement. It would be easy to bail on your 401k or other retirement plan. Don't. Whatever happens in the U.S. economy this year, you will still retire at some point in the future. For example, I'm still buying stocks, although at lower amounts. I am sticking more cash in high-yield savings accounts and I plan to buy CDs this year as well. However, I still need my money to grow, so my IRA will continue to get contributions.

I didn't start saving for retirement until I was in my 30's. If I had it to do over again, I would have started when I was 18, and never stopped. I probably could have retired by now, or at least been able to retire early.

Build Your Own Bailout

Posted by T | 10:13 PM | 1 comments »

It's in the news every day: the U.S. government considers bailout plans for different businesses and industries that are on the verge of collapse: stock brokerage firms, banks, auto manufacturers. You might be asking yourself, "Where is MY bailout?". After all, individual stockholders and small business owners have been hit particularly hard during the current recession.

Well, there is no need to wait until President-elect Obama is inaugurated to gain some financial relief. You can build your own bailout.

The Today Show has done a pretty good job of presenting personal finance tips lately, and they recently took a look at what the common man or women (that's us) can do to strengthen their own financial position. These tips are going to look familiar, because they are the same type of tips we have been promoting at Savvy Frugality for 18 months now. These tips aren't "sexy", but they are timely...and they work. I'm living proof of that. Six years ago, I had massive amounts of debt, no savings and I ran out of money between paychecks. Things couldn't be more different today...even with the state of the current economy.

Now, let's quickly run down the tips passed along on "Today" (with comments from Savvy Frugality):

1. Track your cash. You can't begin to dig yourself out of a hole until you know how deep it is. Start tracking your expenses so you know where the money is going.

2. Build a budget. I actually prefer the term "spending plan". You plan to spend your money. The word "budget" is like the word "diet". Everybody starts them with good intentions, but they eventually stray back to their old ways. Like losing weight, learning how to effectively spend and save is a lifestyle change.

3. Stop your spending. OK, you still need to eat, but you know what we mean. Put the credit cards away, already.

4. Save, save, save. You need to stick away a percentage of your paycheck everyday. Ten percent would be great, but if you have to start lower, go ahead. Just save SOMETHING. Try to save $500 at first, then work your way up to a month's worth of living expenses, then three months, and then six months. When you have six month's worth of living expenses in a savings account earning interest, you won't believe the weight that's been lifted off your shoulders.

5. Save for retirement, too. Your kids can borrow money for college, but you can't borrow money for retirement. If you are short-changing your retirement account, you're facing a pretty bleak future. If you're still working at 70 or 75, make sure it's because you want to, not because you have to.

These tips are discussed in more detail in the video:

Now that we are beginning a new year, I thought I would take a look back at the top ten most-read posts on Savvy Frugality in 2008. Even I was a bit surprised at some of the results. So, let's count them down starting at Number 10:

10. Ten Quick Ways to Cut Your Monthly Bills. There is some great info in this post about how to cut your recurring monthly bills. It proved to be quite a timely topic this year, considering the state of the economy.

9. Clutter Costs Money. Not only are those stacks of bills and paperwork taking up valuable space in your home and making it look clutter, but they can actually cost you a lot of money. Don't ignore them.

8. The Frugal Millionaire. Believe it or not, some of the most frugal people I know are millionaires. They hate to part with their money. I'm convinced that is the reason why they are millionaires in the first place.

7. Ten Lessons from a One Income Family. This post recounts my family's experiences moving from two incomes to surviving on one income. It's amazing how much money you actually save when only one person is working, but it also takes some planning.

6. Does it Work? Debbie Meyer Green Bags. It's amazing how many hits this post received. After the infomercials hit the airwaves, people wanted to know if those green backs actually helped keep their fruits and veggies fresh for a longer period of time. My wife bought them, and they work. We also have the gold bags for bread, and they work just as well.

5. Depression-era Recipes. Posts about the Great Depression were popular in 2008, probably because of the economy and the collapse of the real estate industry. This post details some of the ways people kept food on the table during the Great Depression, and some of the recipes are pretty tasty.

4. Top Ten Frugal Living Tips You Can Use Right Now. I actually use them all the time because they are money savers. I would not recommend tips I don't already use myself, and unlike a lot of other frugal living tips you'll find online, these really aren't extreme. Small changes make a big difference.

3. The Savvy Frugality Recession Survival Guide. I'm actually surprised this wasn't Number One on the list, but it still made the Top Three. Even if you haven't implemented these tips yet, it's never too late.

2. and .1 Vince the Shamwow Guy is Back! and Who is the Shamwow Guy and Why Do You Want to Buy His Rags?
WTF? Vince takes the top two spots? That's right, the annoying infomerical pitchman with the mesmerizing uh...pitch for simple cloths dominated the Google search traffic which lead thousands of readers right to the posts about Vince the Shamwow guy, who is also pitching a new kitchen appliance called the Slap Chop. Maybe it's his accent, maybe it's the way he makes those cloths look so appealing, maybe it's the fact that you can't turn on the TV without seeing those commericals, but when it comes to the most popular posts on Savvy Frugality, Vince is the man. On a side note, I have never used the Shamwow, but my son's Boy Scout troop uses them on camping trips, and they swear by them.


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