Dialing For Dollars
Phone in a more favorable interest rate. Do you carry a balance on your credit card from month to month (even just occasionally)? Call the customer service number and ask for a lower interest rate. Shoot for a rate reduction of one-third (for example, a new APR of 12% as opposed to the current 19%). On a $6,000 balance that you want to pay off in one year, you'll save $198 in interest and about $200 on payments over a single year. This tactic works best for customers with an on-time payment history, knowledge of competitors‘ offers (see the going rates at bankrate.com) and a sink full of dishes (to keep you occupied if you're put on hold).
Sweet-talk your way out of late fees. Even the most punctual bill payer can forget to put the check in the mail. Call, apologize profusely (bonus points for particularly creative excuses) and tell your card company that the check really, truly is in the mail (make sure that it is). Then ask to have the late-payment fee waived just this once, pretty, pretty, pretty please. A little groveling will save you an average of $35. Now mark your calendar with next month's due date, because the late-fee forgiveness will only fly once, maybe twice a year.
Dial down your car insurance premiums. If your current deductible is less than four figures, call your car insurer and raise your deductible to $1,000 (at least). Upping it to that level from $250, for example, could slash your premiums by 15% or more. (That's $135 in savings if your current annual cost of car insurance is $900.)
Hang up on high cell-phone cancellation fees. Don't get stuck with a dud cell-phone plan just to avoid a steep early cancellation fee. You can dump the plan and skip the penalty termination fee ($170 on average). Start with your provider: If it has changed the terms of your contract in the past 30 days, you may have the right to terminate the deal without getting financially slapped on the wrist. If you missed the deadline or no changes were made, your next step is to hook up with a cellular exchange service (for example, celltradeusa.com) which will help you transfer your carrier (and remaining contract) to a cell-service shopper for just a small fee (typically $20).