While we might not be sure of the economic outlook for 2009, one thing we can be sure of is there are certain habits we should all be developing right now to take us through good times and bad. So whether you are in drowning in debt, fearing job loss or no longer being footloose and fancy free, here are some of the best ways to keep your head above water in 2009.

Scrutinize Spending
Have a gym membership you never use? Overspending on eating out? Overboard on giving gifts? The numbers don’t lie. If you don’t know what is coming in and what is going out every month, then it’s impossible to see where you can make changes. Sometimes the simplest changes can have the greatest impact. Track your spending for one month (minimum) and at the end of the month take a hard look at your spending.

Become your Own Advocate
Make 2009 your year to advocate for lower interest rates on all of your loans. If you are carrying a balance on your credit cards, work to transfer the debt to one low interest line of credit or credit card so you are only making payments on this account.

Barter Smarter
If you have a skill, service or talent, try bartering. You can barter everything from dog sitting to personal training. We barter cooking classes, marketing and PR services, and childcare.

Pay the Taxman Less
If you have not done so already, now is the time to open your Tax Free Savings Account. This is your year to maximize the new Tax Free Savings Accounts as well as your RRSPs. If you have lost money in the stock market, which most of us have, you can also write off that loss against your taxes.

Save 20 per cent on Your Entertainment Costs
Most of us spend an average of $500 a month on meals out and entertainment with family and friends. Lowering that cost by just $100 a month would save you $1,200 a year. Simple ways to do that include packing your own lunch, switching from a latté to a regular coffee, and using two-for-ones coupons for movies and day trips.

Start a Money Group
For us, the key to financial success began with our Money Group. Whether it is with your better half, your friends or your family, setting a regular time to make a spending plan, review your objectives and brainstorm ways to make more money will not only help you reach your financial goals faster but ensure you stay on track — and have fun doing so!

Visit smartcookies.com for more saving tips and e-mail questions or comments to smartcookies@metronews.ca.

– Tune in Monday nights at 10:30 p.m. EST/PST on the W Network and be sure to visit
www.smartcookies.com for more tips.

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