flubs come in all sizes, but for most of us it's the little
ones that cause the biggest cash drain.
Don't let these six budget busters squeeze the
air out of your hard-earned income.
1. In the competitive credit card industry,
your card issuer wants to keep you, the existing, charging
customer. So don't settle for high rates on your credit cards
-- even if your credit is not the best. Just call and ask
for a lower interest rate. This form
letter will help you request a rate change (and the elimination
of your annual fee, too). If they say no, consider
2. Take a second look at your daily commute
to work. Consider what it costs for parking, gas, tolls, insurance
and maintenance. Changing how you get to work can create more
breathing room in your budget -- from gas
savings to insurance
reductions to reduced wear on the car.
3. Make your house energy-efficient to reduce
utility bills. Opt for some easy, inexpensive solutions that
yield an immediate payback, such as a programmable thermostat,
new insulation, caulking and compact fluorescent bulbs. The
right landscaping can even lower
your energy bills by blocking winter winds or the summer
sun. Consider these energy-use
4. A cell phone plan that doesn't fit your lifestyle
is a money drain. The most-expensive mistake you can make
is signing up for a calling plan with a rock-bottom rate and
exceeding your allotted air time each month. Zero in on your
calling needs, brush up on your cell phone terminology and
then research, research, research. Use this comparison
worksheet to find the best cell phone plan.
5. Change your grocery shopping habits -- comparison
shop, wait for sales, use shopping lists, redeem rebates and
save those coupons! Bankrate offers a resource of coupon-clipping
advice. Plan your weekly meals to limit eating out and
to stop "crisis cooking" -- you know, when at 4:30
p.m. you decide what's for dinner and then stop at the store
for pre-made, and more costly, fare.
6. ATMs are convenient, but can be costly. Make
it a habit to only use your bank's ATMs. You'll avoid paying
two surcharge fees -- to your bank and the other bank. Get extra
cash at the grocery store; most grocery store point-of-sale
terminals are free. Or you can save by switching to a bank
with a larger ATM network and withdrawing larger amounts to
maximize ATM usage.
Use the money you save from these everyday
expenses to help pay off your debt and build up your emergency