11 ways to save money now

Don't let this recession keep you down. Grab the opportunity to build a stronger portfolio, cut the fat from your budget, and give yourself a head-to-toe fiscal makeover.

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3. Accept the new norm...
...and set realistic investment goals.

You got used to double-digit returns when times were good, which makes the pain caused by what's happening now feel downright excruciating. If you had simply set realistic expectations - no, it's not normal for stocks to rise 20% in a year - you wouldn't feel so bad.

But our brains don't work that way. And prior to the downturn, our most recent experience was one of the most extraordinary eras in history, marked by quarter-century bull markets for stocks and bonds, and a huge run-up in home prices earlier this decade.

Now that you're faced with a true financial crisis, you need a coping mechanism. Try this on for size: On a piece of paper write out a series of "what ifs." What if your portfolio doesn't recoup its losses for another seven years? What if it takes another decade before your home value recovers?

Then jot down ways you'd adjust to these possibilities. Perhaps you agree to postpone retirement by a few years. Maybe you stay in your home longer than you planned.

By documenting how you'll react to these scenarios, you're creating lower expectations. And that will leave you plenty of possibilities for happy surprises.

NEXT: Lose rate by refinancing your mortgage
Last updated May 08 2009: 10:58 AM ET
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