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Unless you’ve taken an economics course in school, chances are you don’t know about handling money as well as you like to believe. Handling money is a skill, essential to everyone who wants prosperity and a life free of financial worries.

Everyone knows how to spend. Few know how to save their money so they can prosper through hard times. The first rule that many people forget is that money is a tool. It can be thrown away on frivolous things or invested to create more wealth.

In times of prosperity it’s easy to spend. Little thought is given to saving since there’s a steady supply of money to keep the family coffers full. But when economic hardship hits, many are caught off guard, trying to meet obligations they hadn’t planned for. Saving becomes a priority, but still takes time to rebuild wealth once the bills are paid in full.

The best policy to saving is to start before economic disaster hits. Here are some hints that can help you save no matter what your financial situation happens to be.

Pay Yourself First

Taking 10% of your take home pay and putting it into a long-term savings or investment plan will pay more in the long run and provide security for your family once you are gone. While many claim they can’t afford to salt away that 10%, many find it surprising that it isn’t as difficult as they believed once the habit is established.

Create a Spending Budget

Necessary expenses such as food, clothing, insurance, taxes and utilities are necessary, but few people know how much of their income goes toward those necessities and how much is wasted on nonessential items. A budget can clarify where your money goes and pinpoint the areas of wastage. A well constructed budget means fewer surprises at the end of every month.

Save Those Bonuses

For many, a pay raise or the Christmas bonus is the license to increase spending. The cardinal rule is to salt away those bonuses and keep your standard of living the same as usual. Just because you uncle left you a fortune doesn’t mean you can spend a fortune.

Save More on Fewer Possessions

Your car supplies the transportation you need to get you to where you need to go. But a second car is often unnecessary unless you have a large family. A second car means paying more for fuel and insurance. You may not need that car if public transportation can get you where you want to go. Consider car pooling or bike to work. There’s little need to throw out the furniture and appliances if they are still useful. Saving more means getting more use from your car and household products.

Save On Necessities

While you can’t control hydro and telephone rates, you can make changes to pay less than you are now. Using power wisely by lowering your thermostat when you’re not home and a dozen methods can shave a great deal off your power bills. Cancel all those calling features if you’re not using them. You can search for better deals on home and car insurance. Shop around for better mortgage rates. Major expenses can always be trimmed, you just need to do some digging.

Use Credit Wisely

Your credit card providers want you to get into debt as it puts more money into their coffers. Credit cards are convenient if your car breaks down and you need a tow to the nearest garage. But charging a new appliance on credit is a big mistake if you can’t pay the bill when it comes due. If you want to use credit cards, have only one or two and make sure you pay off your purchases on time. The average family today has as much as 17 cards. That’s a recipe for financial disaster.

Whatever you save means a more secure future. What you save means you’ll have more than enough to pay for and enjoy the luxuries you’ve always wanted without stress.