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Financial Literacy - Emergency fund
Jean Chatzky
Take baby steps to build a sizable emergency fund, says this personal finance expert.
Creating an emergency fund

Interview: Jean Chatzky

Ways to find money
Generally, most people know they could hold a garage sale or use coupons at the grocery store to save money. What are some less-obvious ways people could save money?

Make financial goals tangible

I think a lot of people know that they can refinance a mortgage -- although these days, with mortgage rates going up, that's a little bit harder. A lot of people don't know that they can refinance a car loan. Refinancing private student loans if you have a decent credit score may be a way to save yourself some money. I agree with you -- I think a lot of the solutions are sort of out there in the ether already. But everybody has spending weaknesses and until you take a very close look at your own spending behavior, it's impossible for me to tell you where your weaknesses are. I'm a firm believer in this exercise of tracking your spending. Just do it for a month - get a notebook and write everything down. When I did this for the first time, I saw I was spending a huge amount of money, more than I ever thought, on birthday gifts because my kids were pretty young at the time and they were of the age where you go to the birthday party of everyone in the class. My solution to that was to start a present closet. When I would find something good for $10 rather than $20, I'd buy eight of them and stick them in the closet, which ended up saving me time as well as money.

If you're a commuter, you may buy something to read before you get on the train every day. If you're a cosmetics junkie, a trip to the drugstore ends up meaning a new lipstick every time you're there. Pay attention also to your communications bills. A lot of people didn't add things like texting to their cell phone plans when they started because they didn't think they would use the program. Texting has become extremely popular, however, so you know if you're spending a lot of money on pictures, texting, voicemail or additional services, and not using your landline anymore because you completely rely on your cell phone, then maybe it's time to get rid of the landline.

-- Posted: July 23, 2007
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