Scott Adams (the artist who does Dilbert) recently made a very short 100-word "guide to investing," which even the major investment houses have considered pretty sound advice considering how amazingly short it is. I'm aware that most people think they have no money to invest, hence I am offering my own version of this. You don't have to do all of these things, but if you can't do *any* of them you most likely don't have a job and that would of course be your first priority. Later I'll post a two-minute guide to why this is important.
A two-minute guide to broke-ass investing.
Contribute to your 401k. If your company offers to match your deposits, this is free money you should have.
Contribute to your IRA.
Buy silver. You only need a few bucks. If you have $50, buy gold. Try eBay or your local coin store.
Pay more on your mortgage.
Pay more on your credit cards and don't use them.
Don't buy what you can't afford to pay with cash.
troweprice.com and tiaacref.com - Send $50/month to your investment each month automatically. If it's not in your account, you won't miss it. This is called "paying yourself first" and you should do it first before you buy other things.
Sogoinvest.com - invest for $3 or less per transaction. You don't have to buy something automatically every month, though this is a great idea. You can simply make single or automatic transfers to your Sogoinvest account, and then buy something when it reaches a larger amount so you don't lose so much to the fees. I suggest waiting until you have $200. You can make small automatic or manual transfers with Tradeking or Zecco below as well; just do whatever you can, set up a $5 a week withdrawal, make a $20 transfer if you work overtime and get a bigger check. Every bit helps. Sharebuilder.com is similar.
When you get to $1000 in one of the above investment accounts, keep it there or transfer it to Tradeking.com, which offers trades for $5 and allows you to invest in a greater range of options; or Firstrade.com, which offers trades for $7 and allows you to invest in mutual funds for $9.95. I suggest making trades at Tradeking with at least $250 and Firstrade with at least $350. Don't trade more than once a year at these rates or you will lose too much money.
When you get to $2500, I suggest Zecco.com. You get 40 free trades per month. For all of these, if you don't know what to invest in, just put it in an index fund. SPY or VTI are good for U.S. Stocks. If you want to get really spicy add in VEU, an international index. There you go. Questions are welcomed.