You want to save money for a rainy day, but when you're living paycheck to paycheck that goal may seem downright impossible. We show you how to break free from the cycle -- and from your credit cards -- to free up cash for emergencies and your other August 7, 2006 For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans actually spent more than they made in 2005, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Yet the virtues of saving for a rainy day are just as strong now as they've ever been. Without a solid cushion of cash to fall back on in an emergency, you essentially become a prisoner to your bills and expenses -- and even your credit cards -- making it even harder to break free from living paycheck to paycheck to reach your financial goals.No more. Make today the day you declare your financial independence. Having a bit of money stashed away empowers you to handle the curves life throws at you without risking financial ruin. For example, you'll have the freedom to quit a job in case your ethics are compromised. You'll have the choice to take a month or two off work when a new baby arrives or a family member falls ill. You'll be able to withstand the temporary displacement of a natural disaster. (Remember last year's hurricane season?) Building up your savings isn't an impossible task. After all, you don't have to amass your stash all at once. The key is to start small, find simple ways to cut your spending, put those credit cards away and set up a budget you can get excited about. Our guide will show you how to get your finances in order and help you jump start your savings. Let freedom ring. Build Your Financial Foundation You have so many demands on your wallet, but constructing an emergency stash of cash should be a top priority. We show you three strategies to fund your savings - even when you're low on cash. And we identify the best places to house your money. Plus: Calculate how much you should set aside for emergencies. Advertisement Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck By tracking your expenses, setting goals and cutting costs, you can avoid scrambling to make ends meet each month and actually start saving money. Build Your Budget Budgeting doesn't have to be a bad word. Think of your budget as a means of setting and reaching your goals. Plus: Use our budget worksheet to get started. Escape the Credit Card Trap When you're living paycheck to paycheck it's awfully tempting to use credit to cover big price hikes or surprise expenses. But if you take the bait you could find yourself trapped in revolving debt. Here's an escape plan. Plus: Should you pay off debt or invest in savings? The Ultimate Savings Guide Save thousands of dollars with our 89 tips for shaving expenses, scouting out bargains and boosting your investment returns.