So how's your credit limit looking?

If your bank has trimmed your credit wings, you're not alone. According to a recent study by FICO (yep, the keepers of the black-box credit scoring system), 33 million Americans had their revolving credit reduced between October 2008 and April 2009.

That's not much of a surprise. It has been obvious for a while that banks would be trimming their credit card exposure this year. They -- and we -- need to trim our debt loads to sustainable …

Oh, geez. Stop it.

Stop what?

The moralizing. All that "America-has-been-on-a-credit-binge-and-needs-to-sober-up" la-de-da stuff. Nobody wants to read that anymore. You media guys have completely beaten it to death. Besides, it was annoying in the first place.

Actually, that's not what I was going to talk about …

You want something to talk about? Talk about how those credit-line cuts have smacked people's credit ratings, over nothing. Makes me mad …

Actually, they haven't. A lot of the big issuers like JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), and Wells Fargo (NYSE:WFC) needed to make big cuts, and they may need to make more, but the effect on folks' credit ratings so far has been minimal. Some people have even seen their FICO scores go up.


It hasn't been a big deal, except for the fact that people have less access to credit than they used to.

But that's …

Hush for a minute. This is the point I was trying to make: Banks are cutting revolving credit lines, home values are down and HELOCs are harder to get, and people are worried about their jobs.

So companies like Best Buy (NYSE:BBY) and Dell (NASDAQ:DELL) that sell bigger-ticket items are going to take a hit, and more basic retailers like Costco (NASDAQ:COST) and (NASDAQ:AMZN) are buys. That might make a better article, except that I don't think the bargain retailers are doing all that well right now either. Y'know, I think you need to start over.

No. Stop. This isn't an article about stocks. It's about saving.

Oh, saving! Is this la-de-da we're falling behind the Chinese? Or la-de-da spend less than you earn?

I'll give you la-de-da, smart guy. Ponder this: How do you buy a car or take a nice vacation if you can't or don't want to go into debt for it?


Or this: A lot of first-time homebuyers are finding that they need significant down payments. Real ones, not mortgage company smoke-and-mirrors. Y'know, actual cash. Where's that come from?

Well, you save up.

Exactly. And how do you save up?

Well, you put some money aside every month, but ... oh geez, that never seems to work very well. It's hard to just have that money sitting there.


So what?

So saving isn't la-de-da anymore. It's a big deal. Saving up for big-ticket stuff is a good thing to do. But a lot of people, even people who consider themselves pretty clued-in financially, have trouble saving up for larger purchases. Or just saving in general, beyond their retirement accounts.

Yeah, that's true.

And yes, it's sounds obvious, but saving -- spending less than you earn -- is how you build wealth. Real wealth, balance-sheet wealth, not just the appearance of wealth. If you want to get rich and stay rich, saving outside of your retirement accounts is a skill you'll need to master.

OK. So how do you save up without having it just kind of dribble away on you? It seems like it's human nature to dip into it a little here and there and then it's gone again, y'know?

I know. But think about how retirement accounts are structured to work around human nature -- they're separate, they're hard to get at, and they come right out of your paycheck automatically.

There are lots of ways you can do the same thing for yourself. You could ask your bank if you could set up a special side account for a specific saving goal -- a lot of banks will do that. You might even be able to set up an automatic deposit that comes out of your paycheck every month.

Or you could do it with a brokerage account -- lots of discount brokers will allow you to automatically scoop a pre-set amount out of your checking account into a money market fund on a regular basis. There are a bunch of ways to do it, and a bunch of other tricks that can help you make it happen. In fact, my fellow Fool Robert Brokamp took a look at this in the new issue of Rule Your Retirement

Oh geez, now you're going to sell me a newsletter.

Chill out, you can grab a free trial and see it all for free for 30 days. Just click here to get started.

Fool contributor John Rosevear has no position in the companies mentioned., Best Buy, and Costco are Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendations. Best Buy, Costco, and Dell are Inside Value recommendations. The Fool owns shares of Best Buy and Costco. You can try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.