smart spending

7 easy steps to saving $1,000 in 2008

"Because of taxes and other state-imposed fees, the overall savings for a bundle might not be as great as you may have been led to believe," says Mruz.

However, your bill could still be much less than if you paid for the services separately.

Even if you don't opt for a bundled package, ask your providers for a price break.

"If your rates are too high, call some other companies to find their rates. Then call your current provider and ask them to match the price," says Mehdikarimi. "My philosophy is that it never hurts to ask."

If you're able to reduce your total fees by $20 a month, that adds up to $240 for the year.

6. Negotiate with monthly service providers

Once you get off the phone with your cable, Internet and telephone provider, call your alarm company, lawn care person and any of your other monthly service providers to negotiate prices. Depending on where you live, you might even be able to negotiate natural gas rates.

"Obviously, you're not going to get very far with monopoly utilities, but for the companies that have competition, you can definitely negotiate your price," says Mehdikarimi.

She suggests that in each case, find what out what the competitors are charging. Then ask your provider to match the price.

Don't get discouraged if the first person you speak with can't approve a rate decrease.

"You might need to ask for a supervisor," says Mehdikarimi.

One tip is to call during normal business hours to increase the chances of reaching a supervisor who can authorize a rate change.

If the idea of negotiating for a better price sounds intimidating, remember that the conversation can be pleasant, even if you have to ask the customer service representative to put the boss on the phone.

"The call doesn't have to be confrontational," says Mehdikarimi. "Remember that you'll be in a telephone situation where you're not looking at someone face to face. Tell yourself that they're a random person, and after this call, you'll never have to see them again."

If you save a total of just $10 a month negotiating all your monthly services, you'll save an extra $120 a year.

7. Stash money for easier savings next year

By making these barely noticeable changes to your lifestyle, you could save as much as $1,000 over the next year. But how do you increase your savings in future years?

Bill Billimoria, personal finance expert and author of "On Golden Pond Or Up the Creek?" suggests letting your cash work for you.

"Take the money you saved so far and put it into a high-interest savings account or mutual fund," he says. "Then let compounding interest do the magic."

If you place $1,000 in an account that pays a 7 percent annual return on investment, the original amount will nearly double after 10 years. That means twice the money for no extra work.

Saving money by doing "nothing" can be a very lucrative habit.


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