'Tis the season to think about money. Specifically, how to get hold of it when the banks are less than brimming - and how to keep hold of it. Love of money may be the root of all evil. But as everyone struggling to keep their heads above water at the moment knows only too well, hatred of lending it is not the route to salvation. Not even for the banks.

Yet businesses are faced with the predicament of a lack of access to money. Cash is king in the current market. And only those that can get hold of - and keep hold of - working capital are likely to get through the next 12 months unscathed.

"Financial markets are almost closed for business," says OC&C Strategy Consultants partner Chris Outram. "Rolling over your current finance is likely to be the best most companies can do."

That, of course, is easier said than done. But here are 10 steps businesses can take to improve their cash flow and finance their way through the crisis.

1. Cut costs
Manufacturers, in particular, need to reassess their cost bases. "One option is cutting out non-performing products and excess overheads, to allow you to focus on core, profitable lines," suggests Outram. Another option is to sell off empty or under-performing buildings and plants. Prices may not be great, but when cash is hard to obtain, the trade-off may be worthwhile.

2. Review terms
Changing trading terms is another way to increase cash in hand . By paying suppliers later, retailers can reduce their working capital requirement significantly. Asda chief executive Andy Bond last month told The Grocer it would cost Asda £800m were it to cut payment times from 35 days to 20. If you are paying suppliers early, make sure you get a discount for doing so.

3. Reduce inventory
Bulk buying products might appear to make sense, but ties up a lot of working capital. Now is the time to reduce levels of inventory and save on upfront costs, giving you more cash in hand, say experts.

4. Rethink your commitment
Projects should be reassessed - companies were not facing recession when they came up with many projects. If a project doesn't make sense in the new climate, postpone or cancel it and recoup the cash.

5. Assess what you've got
Don't just hope you've got enough working capital. Run the numbers through as many economic scenarios as possible and go through the results with your lenders.

6. Hold your horses
The recession may be predicted to last until 2010, but the financial markets are set to improve past 2009. Unless you have to renew your facilities before then, hold tight.

"Our chief economist is predicting five successive quarters of negative economic growth," says Keith Richardson, relationship director for retail at Lloyds TSB. "But liquidity between banks is just beginning to flow, so things should start to improve early next year. However, it has to be clear we're in a completely different environment, where our understanding of risk has fundamentally changed. We're unlikely to see a shift in lending back to the levels we saw two years ago. "

7. Be choosy
For those who do need finance, it is vital to shop around - even if that simply means increasing the number of institutions you source finance from. "Don't just restrict yourself to a few traditional sources," says Richardson. "Think a bit of bank finance, plus some cash from capital markets. Look at property-backed loans, leasing, even equity release. Take an open-minded approach."

8. Consider the options
Equity issue is another option for listed companies. But large falls in the stock markets means equity prices are low, assuming you can find an investor. "The market is very difficult," says Shaun Browne, MD of advisory company McQueen. "For example, October was the first month in more than a decade with no new capital raised on the AIM market."

9. Strike while the iron is hot
Disposals, mergers and acquisitions for some bigger businesses are likely to be an attractive option over the next year. Struggling smaller companies can be rescued, while strong companies hope to pick up their rivals at 'bargain' prices in an economic downturn. But can you persuade your bank to foot the bill? Yes , says Browne. If you have a "compelling case and huge synergies from the deal", then there is still cash on the table.

10. Get the fundamentals right
Ultimately, it's about the basics. "Retail is about the right product in the right place, at the right price," says Richardson. " Having a strong management team, good relations with your bank and strong business operations should see you through."