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Automobiles are expensive. Between car payments, gas, repairs, and insurance, an automobile in some communities can be as expensive as a home. If you can get by without a car (or with one fewer car than you have) temporarily or permanently, you will save hundreds of dollars a month.

Save on tax preparation services by going to a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location. VITA sites provide free tax preparation to low-income and moderate-income taxpayers. They are sponsored by the IRS, and can be found in libraries, community centers, and other locations during tax time. For the nearest VITA site, contact the IRS (800-906-9887 or www.irs.gov). AARP also operates Tax-Aide sites that can be found at www.aarp.org/applications/VMISLocator/searchTaxAideLocations.action.

You may feel obligated to help adult family members or friends share your home with you at no cost to them. However, if that person has income, it is fair to ask for a contribution to the household expenses. Alternatively, it may be time to politely ask that person to find somewhere else to live permanently or temporarily. If you continue to pay the expenses of people who can manage on their own, this may stretch your budget to the point that everyone loses their home.

If you have children in private school, consider a change during a period when you are experiencing financial problems. Family counseling may help with these difficult transitions. If you feel your children must stay in private school, speak with a school official or a financial aid officer. Special assistance programs may be available for families having temporary financial difficulties.

If religious contributions are stretching your budget, consider talking to your clergy. More often than not, special efforts will be made to help you through a tough financial time without affecting your membership or standing in the community.

Many community-based social service programs offer assistance for free or on a sliding scale. Low-cost counseling on a variety of issues is widely available if you are persistent in looking for it. These programs are designed to help people in your situation in a confidential and effective way. You should not be embarrassed to get help.