Saving During Tough Times: Five Questions to Ask Yourself

"A lot of my friends are financially struggling. I don't know anyone right now that's doing well," she said. "My father lost $31,000 in his 401(k) plan and he's three years away from retiring. There's no way he's going to come up with 30k in three years, so it's been tough. I'm buckling down now to prepare myself for anything that could be happen down the line."

Barker switched all of her lights to energy efficient bulbs. And when she does drive she plans trips so that she can do several errands at once. "I don't just pop in the car to go driving anymore," she said.

Economic Survival Question 4: If You Lost Your Job, What Would You Be Willing to Do?

Yochim says it's important to figure out what kind of immediate action you could take to bring in money. Could you contract for work at the company that laid you off? Can you freelance? Are you willing to sling burgers? "If you know, 'Yeah I could totally line up a couple of projects' you may not need as large a cash cushion," Yochim said.

Cathy Greene's husband Allen Greene had to stop working months ago due to a medical condition. Cathy, 45, who earns about $300 to $400 a week as a massage therapist and instructor, couldn't support the both of them on her income. So earlier this year she and her husband decided to take immediate action: they're saving money by living rent-free with Allen's grandmother.

"Homecare is very expensive and she wanted to stay in her home, and didn't want to go to assisted living," Greene said. "It has really benefited the whole family and allowed me and my husband to save money."

The Greenes trimmed down their expenses to a little more than $600 a month, allowing them to start banking half of their income, even though Allen is currently not working due to a medical condition. The Greenes used to eat out "all the time," but cut back to once every two weeks. They no longer belong to a gym, and have gotten used to buying used videos instead of going to the movies. Their clothing budget is minimal.

"I don't buy clothes -- I wear scrubs to work. My husband buys jeans from the thrift store," he said. Cathy buys her scrubs on Ebay, where she recently found two pairs of pants and three shirts for a total of $15.

"These are slightly worn but in good condition. I look for the brand names. I don't bid a whole lot of money. I've just got to check back -- if something's a dollar I bid five," she said.

Cathy also enrolled in the Save Yourself TD Ameritrade account that pays you $100 if you deposit $100 every month for 12 months.

Her advice? When you finish paying for something: stop buying new things. But while you're saving, allow yourself to splurge on one thing.

"I won't give up my wine and my husband won't give up his Heineken," she said.

"It's a lifestyle change. There's no such thing as a diet," she said. "Even if my husband goes out and gets a fantastic job we'll still live the same way."

Economic Survival Question 5: Do You Have Access to Credit?

If you've lost your job, or you've missed a few bill payments, credit card companies probably aren't going to extend any credit to you.

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