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$aving On Common Bills And Fees

At a time when consumers are struggling just to pay their bills, avoiding additional fees that add up could save you more money than you may think.

And there are easy ways to cut down on the bills themselves.

On The Early Show Friday, Consumer Correspondent Susan Koeppen shared strategies concerning numerous common expenses.

Banking, ATMs

Many banks offer fee-free checking and savings accounts, so make sure you're using one that does.

It's important to remember many checking accounts are free when your paychecks are automatically deposited via direct deposit. And many banks today offer e-mail and text alerts when your balance becomes low, which can help you avoid bounced-check fees, which can be steep.

In addition, ATM fees can be avoided by using your own bank's ATMs.

If the bank you use doesn't have an ATM near where you are when you need cash, and you're forced to use another bank's ATM, especially if it happens on a regular basis, simply ask your bank to waive those out-of-network ATM fees for you. Many will, no problem.

Cell Phones, Cable TV, Internet Service

Re-evaluate all your plans, starting with cell phone and cable. With more consumers subscribing to cable's "triple play"-type bundles (video, high-speed Internet and digital phone), the actual price for these products is 23 percent lower than it was ten years ago (on an inflation-adjusted basis), and the services are dramatically better.

Call up your cable company and ask them about special deals that may save you money every month. Do it annually.

If they hesitate, tell them you may go with a competitor.

The cell phone industry has also become very competitive, and this could mean savings for consumers. Call up your cell phone carrier and ask if it has a plan that may make more sense for you based on your usage. The provider can evaluate your usage to see if there's a plan that better suits you and can save you money in the long-run.

Credit Cards

First, talk with your current lender and ask it to reduce your rate. Make it clear you plan to find a new lender if it isn't willing to reduce your rate. It's not likely to work, but it's worth asking.

If your lender says no, it's time to do some shopping. Find a company/card that is appropriate for your lifestyle and spending patterns.

Auto Insurance

Frst, remember that your choice of a car can affect the cost of insurance, based on the make/model you choose. Location is also a factor in auto insurance prices, so don't be surprised if your fee increases or decreases if you move. Also, you may get a break on your insurance if you are over 50 or if there is a young driver on the policy who is a good student, has taken a drivers education course or is away at college without the car (generally, at least 100 miles away). You may also be able to save if you are insuring more than one car. Shop around until you find the company that can offer the best rate based on your needs.
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