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Communicate by e-mail rather than by phone. If you're on-line, e-mail communications are virtually free. Even for subscribers, landline and wireless calls often carry per-minute charges. Be aware of your cell phone costs and how to reduce them. Cell phone use has dramatically increased communications expenditures in many households. Understand peak calling periods, area coverage, roaming, and termination charges. Make sure your calling plan matches the pattern of calls you typically make.
Assess your communications costs. As Internet and wireless use grows, many consumers are overpaying for unneeded communications capacity. For example, if you have a cell phone and two phone lines -- one for your computer -- consider receiving personal calls on your cell phone so you can give up one of the phone lines.
Look for sales at discount outlets. There are huge price differences between clothing on sale at discount stores and that sold regularly at many department and specialty stores, though keep in mind that prices at the latter are often deeply discounted.
Use window coverings to block or let in sunshine. In summer, use these coverings to block sunlight, keeping your house cool. In winter, open the coverings to let sunshine warm the house. You could easily save more than $100 annually while being more comfortable.
Weatherproof your home. Caulk holes and cracks that let warm air escape in the winter and cold air escape in the summer. Your local hardware store has materials, and quite possibly useful advice, about inexpensively stopping unwanted heat or cooling loss.
Ask your local electric or gas utility for a free or low-cost home energy audit. The audit may reveal inexpensive ways to reduce home heating and cooling costs by hundreds of dollars a year. Keep in mind that a payback period of less than three years, or even five years, usually will save you lots of money in the long-term.
Choose home repair contractors wisely. Favor contractors who have successfully performed work for people you know. Insist on a written, fixed-price bid. Don't make full payment until satisfactory completion of the work.
Refinance your mortgage to lower interest charges. Consider refinancing your mortgage to lower the rate and term. On a 15-year $100,000 fixed-rate mortgage, lowering the rate from 7% to 6.5% can save you more than $5,000 in interest charges over the life of the loan. For each $100,000 you borrow at a 7% rate, you will pay over $75,000 less in interest on a 15-year than a 30-year fixed rate mortgage. And, you will accumulate home equity more rapidly, thus increasing your ability to cover large emergency expenditures.
Live relatively near your workplace. While this isn't always possible, driving 5,000 miles less a year can lower transportation costs by more than $1,000.
Don't pay for space you don't need. Americans have relatively large houses and apartments. Think about more efficiently using space so you can purchase or rent less square footage.
Check all airlines for cheap fares. Since no website lists all discount carriers, also check out the websites of discount carriers like Southwest and Jet Blue, possibly saving you hundreds of dollars.
Take fewer cab rides. Using public transit instead of cabs can save you $5-10 per trip or more. If you're a frequent cab user, the savings could complete ly fund your emergency savings account.
When driving, avoid fast start-ups and stops. Over time, you will save hundreds of dollars on lower gas and maintenance costs.
Shop around for gas. Comparing prices at different stations and using the lowest-octane (recommended by the car owner's manual) can save you hundreds of dollars a year.
Keep your car engine tuned and its tires inflated to their proper pressure. Doing both can save you up to $100 a year in gas.
Consider dropping credit insurance coverage on installment loans. Many consumers don't need credit insurance because they have sufficient assets to protect themselves in the event of death, disability, or unemployment. Terminating this coverage often reduces financing costs by three percentage points, a savings of about $1,000 on a four-year $20,000 installment loan.
Assess your need for life insurance coverage. If your children are now on their own, or if your spouse works, you may not need as much life insurance protection. The annual premiums on a term life policy would typically fully fund an emergency savings account.
Raise the deductibles on auto and homeowners' insurance: Being willing to pay $500-1,000 on a claim, rather than only $100-250, can reduce annual premiums by as much as several hundred dollars.
Shop around for auto and homeowners' insurance: Before renewing your existing policies each year, check out the rates of competing companies (see the website of your state insurance department). Their annual premiums may well be several hundred dollars lower.
Use only the ATMs of your bank or credit union. Using the ATM of another financial institution once a week could well cost you $3 a withdrawal, or more than $150 over the course of a year.
Make your monthly credit card payment on time. The $30-35 you save by not being charged a late fee each month on one card would save you most of the money you need for $500 in emergency savings.
Reduce credit card debt by $1,000. That $1,000 debt reduction will probably save you $150-200 a year, and much more if you're paying penalty rates of 20-30%.
Avoid bouncing checks or overdraft fees each month. The $20-30 you save by not bouncing a check each month would save you enough money to nearly fully fund a $500 emergency savings account.
Purchase storebrand over-the-counter medications. Storebrand medications often cost 20-40 percent less than nationally advertised brands. The savings could easily exceed $100 a year.