As you look for ways to cut spending, remember two things: First, almost everything is negotiable, and second, it never hurts to ask. Take inventory of the bills you pay each month or each year, and go down the list one by one, asking each provider to help you save money so that you don't have to cancel their service in favor of a cheaper one. Here are a few places to start:
- Credit cards -- As long as you have a good payment history, your credit card company will often agree to lower your interest rate just for the asking. Of course, it can't hurt to remind them that you're prepared to transfer to a lower-interest card if they can't help you out. Just be sure you have another offer at the ready if that's the route you take.
- Heating oil or natural gas -- See if your provider will let you lock in to a lower rate for signing a winter delivery contract up front or spreading your payments out over the year. You might also try teaming up with your neighbors or your homeowners association to negotiate a discounted neighborhood rate.
- Cable -- No, we're not going to tell you to cut it altogether, and we assume you already know that you can often save by bundling TV, Internet and telephone services. If you can't live without your favorite sports programs or shows, call the cable company and ask for the customer retention department. Tell the representative who answers the phone that you are considering switching providers to save money. When the cable company offers a lower rate, ask them if that's the best they can do. Be sure you understand the terms of any new offers. If your special rate will expire after six or 12 months, put a note on your calendar and call back at that time.
- Insurance -- You already know that you can shop rates, but before you switch providers, ask your current insurance agent if you qualify for a loyalty discount or a safe-driver savings program. A bare bones insurance policy from a discount provider can be one of those you-get-what-you-pay-for scenarios, so if you do decide to switch companies, be sure you compare coverage plans closely so you understand what you're giving up.
For even more creative ways to save, look to the articles and links on the next page.