Families are being hit financially on all sides these days, and it looks like things might get worse before getting better.

Energy prices continue to soar with the average price of gas reaching a record $3.20 last week and likely to rise even further this month.

Add to that food prices increasing at the fastest rate since 1990 with the Labor Department reporting that staple food prices (bread, eggs, flour and milk) have risen at double-digit rates in the past year.

This means more families face a large number of difficult decisions to make with their finances.

People usually focus on their own finances and not on the finances of those who are around them. Part of this is because money is still a taboo subject in many ways. But there are a lot of people who could use the financial skill and knowledge of those who have already put their finances in order.

So how can you help those who need help with personal finances, but aren't necessarily asking for your help?

Pay it forward is a concept from a book written by Catherine Ryan Hyde where a person does a good deed for another person with no expectations of repayment. The person who receives the good deed should simply do a good deed for three other people keeping the chain of good deeds going.

Here are five ways you can pay personal finance forward:

1. Pass Along Books and Magazines

Don't let any quality financial knowledge that you have found stop with you. Take the little extra time and effort to make sure it gets passed along to others. Once you have finished reading financial books and magazines that you know you won't refer to again in the future, give them to others. Web sites like Book Crossing encourage you to leave books in public places so that others can find them.

Magazines can be left in waiting rooms, park benches or any other area with heavy foot traffic where they're sure to be found. If you read a good personal finance article, take the time to email it to everyone on your list.

2. Participate on the Internet

As the economy gets worse, people will begin to search for help and many of them will turn to the Internet to find information. There are many ways that you can participate on the Internet to help others with their finances.

A variety of personal-finance forums (do a Web search) bring together people who are looking for advice and need help with questions that you can answer.

You can also pose your own questions that others will answer and will help all that read them. In the same light, a large number of personal-finance blogs allow you to comment to help those writing and reading them.

More news organizations are also allowing people to comment on their articles. Pass along your knowledge to others so they don't have to repeat the same mistakes you may have made and they can get their finances in order much more quickly.

3. Start a Financial Blog

Pass your personal finance experience along to others directly by beginning your own blog. You can write about any money topic with which you have experience from how you recovered from mountains of debt to how you built your millions.

Pass along the lessons that you wish others had passed along to you. Write about both your successes and failures so others can learn from them. Join the growing number of personal-finance bloggers passing along the lessons they have learned.

4. Start a Personal-Finance Study Group

There are investment study groups all across the country and in the same light, beginning a personal-finance study group can be an excellent way to help others as well as yourself.

The group can pick a different personal-finance topic to focus on each month with all the members contributing their knowledge and experience to help others in the group with financial issues.

It's amazing the number of new ideas on ways to save money, improve your finances and how to best invest that you can learn when in a group setting where people are bouncing ideas off one another.

5. Begin a Personal-Finance Book Club

In the same light as a finance study group, starting a personal finance book club can be an excellent way to improve your finances while talking about new ideas learned from the many personal finance books out there.

Since everyone is a bit different, different personal finance books will appeal to different people, but reading a wide range of them will lay a solid foundation for the entire group while at the same time helping each individual find those financial tricks that work best for their personality. Combined together, everyone in the group should make great strides in getting their finances in top shape.

Even those who don't want to commit to a personal finance book club can still help others. If you are already in a book club, suggest a personal-finance book as reading material for one of your meetings. This can be a first step to helping people take an in-depth look at the way they are spending their money.

These are just a few ways that you can pay forward the help you have received from others in getting your own personal finances in order.

Make an effort to help pass along quality information to help others so they will not only survive this economic downturn, but also make their personal finances thrive in the years to come.
Jeffrey Strain owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.