THE QUESTION "DO YOU WANT TO go to credit card hell?" lingered in Shaneyqwua Jarrett's mind for years after her father posed it when she was bombarded with credit card applications in college. Jarrett's parents had always paid for everything in cash and taught her to pay for large purchases in full,
After college, the 29-year-old insurance adjuster spent one year in the military, and had no living expenses. She then lived at home with her family for one year. Jarrett also created a budget and faithfully saved a set amount each week. Over four years, she was able to amass a $36,000 emergency fund.
Whether you need a professional financial plan or just a "Savings 101" refresher, these six tips will get you started on the road to building a cash cushion:
* Have a plan. Decide how much you're going to save and when. "People who have a plan save twice as much as those who don't," says Nancy Register, director of America Saves (www.americasaves.org), a campaign to assist individuals and families with building wealth. "Not only do they save more, but they save more consistently."
* Devise a budget. "People should run their financial affairs just like a business," says Marilyn Logan, author of I Can't Afford to Marry You: A Guide to Understanding the True Cost of Love (Salo Publishing; $20). "It is important for a firm to keep its financial books in order. The same goes for your household. Know how much income you have on a monthly basis and track how much you spend--from groceries to church tithes."
* Treat savings like a bill. "Pay yourself first by putting money aside each month, especially now during turbulent times," suggests Suzanne Mayo, director of Black America Saves (www.blackamericasaves.org), a national social marketing campaign under...