investing

Building an emergency fund

2. Call 411 for free. Do you make a lot of 411 calls from your cell phone? Typically, cell phone providers charge a fee every time you call 411. Instead, you can dial (800) GOOG-411, or (800) 466-4411, to get the listing you want for free. Another free service, (800) FREE-411, or (800) 373-3411, does require you to listen to a short ad before you get your number.

3. Stop going the distance. Drop your long-distance carrier altogether if you make infrequent long-distance phone calls. Instead, use a prepaid phone card, a dial-around service or even your cell phone if you've got the minutes.

4. Examine cell phone usage. Are you exceeding your allotted monthly cell phone minutes each month or using far fewer minutes than your plan allows? Re-evaluate your calling plan and make changes to suit your needs. If you're paying for a household of users, consider whether everyone really needs his or her own line.

Learn new feel-good financial tricks
5. Nix the huge tax refund. That annual $2,400 tax refund may feel great, but you're depriving yourself of $200 every month of the year. Don't give Uncle Sam an interest-free loan. Adjust your withholding allowances so that you're keeping an appropriate amount of money for yourself each month. Put the extra money in a high-yield savings account to make it work for you throughout the year.

6. Pay in cash. Unless you're in the habit of paying your credit card bill in full each month, don't use the cards for anything you can eat or wear. Try to pay in cash to make yourself aware of how much you're spending.

7. Live one pay raise behind. Rather than spending that 3 percent cost-of-living raise, add it to your emergency fund. And the next time you get a raise, increase your disposable income by the amount of your last raise.

Stretch your clothing budget
8. Shop smarter. Select articles of clothing you can use to make multiple outfits, in versatile colors that are easy to mix and match. Stay away from trendy clothes, shoes and accessories you won't wear after they're no longer in fashion. Buy items that serve a dual purpose, such as work and weekend wear, if possible.

9. Minimize tailoring and dry cleaning costs. Stick to buying wash-and-wear clothes when you can, and save the dry clean-only clothes for special occasions. If possible, try not to buy clothes that need alterations, as those costs can add up, too.

10. Turn unworn clothes into money. Take the clothing you or other members of your family no longer wear -- that are still in good condition -- to a consignment shop. Or hold a yard sale.

-- Posted: July 23, 2007

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