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When the economy is in bad shape and people don't have extra money to invest, it doesn't mean you shouldn't invest at all. Invest in things that don't cost a lot of money but produce outstanding returns in alternative ways.

Most people never look beyond money when it comes to personal finances. What many don't realize is there are other steps that have a direct and indirect influence on personal finances. Understanding this enables you to make choices that may not seem to have much to do with personal finances but can end up saving -- and earning -- you thousands of dollars. Here are a few non-financial investments that everyone should make:

Invest in your health: Consider why you are working so hard. Most people want to retire with enough money to enjoy their golden years. But if you don't take care of your health, you may not be able to do much even if you have the money. Invest in a basic health-and-fitness program

Invest in improving yourself: Improving yourself is one of the best investments you can make. Whether it's learning something related to your job or something you have always wanted to do, improving your skills and advancing your knowledge pays dividends down the road.

Invest in time to think: When money is tight and there doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything you need to do, set aside some time. This gives you the chance to consider where you are and what you must do to accomplish goals. Step back and consider if your current path is the correct one and if the strategies you are employing are working.

Invest in time management: We all get into our routines, which are rarely time-efficient. Managing your time to concentrate on things that will help you the most and complete tasks in the most efficient way will allow you to do a lot more in less time.

Invest in organization: If you find you are always running late, can't seem to find things when you need them and always have a pile of stuff on your desk to go through, getting yourself better organized will save you time and money. The hard part is starting, but once you get things organized in a system that works for you, it takes little time or effort to keep it that way

Invest in expanding your contacts: Being social has its benefits. Making an effort to meet new people with various backgrounds can produce a lot of good. Join professional organizations, volunteer for causes you believe in, and help out in your community

Invest in goal setting: If you don't know where you want to go, you're going to have a difficult time getting there. Many people fail to take the time to create and make plans on how to achieve goals. If you can't name your primary goals for the next year, five years and 10 years, you are one of them. Even if you know your goals, revisit them to make sure they are still relevant

Invest in someone else: It's not only worthwhile, but important, to take the experiences and wisdom you have gained and pass them on to others. Become a mentor to anyone who seeks to learn from you and freely offer to help those wanting help. Take others under your wing. You'll find that not only will you be helping others, you will be helping yourself in ways you never imagined.