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Fast ways to save

Having extra cash on hand is a smart idea in this economy, whether you need it for an emergency fund or an extra investment in the market while prices are low. But recent studies have shown that half of Americans would have a tough time coming up with even an extra $2,000. Kelli Grant gives five ways to save that much - and more - over a year.

Moving into a plan that better fits your calling, texting and data patterns could save up to $400 a year. Sites like BillShrink will analyze your current bill and make savings suggestions, or you can call your provider and competing services. But if the best bet seems to be switching carriers, be warned: early termination fees can go as high as $350, which could eat up any savings in a hurry.

Shop around for insurance policies. More severe natural disasters and higher rebuilding costs have led insurers to raise homeowners insurance premiums by more than 7% in many areas over the past year. That's reason enough to shop around on sites like and, checking rates and available discounts. Be sure to call your current insurer, too. It wouldn't be hard to save at least $200 per year or more.

Consumers can save an average $800 a year by finding a new cable provider, or depending on their viewing habits, cutting the cord altogether. Switching is easier to compare with sites like BillShrink or Providers often make their best deals available via cable-phone-Internet bundles, though, so make sure switching to a lower price doesn't entail unbearably slow Internet or a crackly phone connection.

Get a better credit card. Right now, offers are better than they have been in years. Consumers who haven't re-assessed in the past year can compare on sites like CardRatings or to get a better ongoing rate, more generous rewards or a cheap balance transfer. Savings can top $600 a year in interest fees saved or extra rewards earned.

Review your spending splurges. The first four tips we talked about are the easy ones because after an hour or so of work, your savings are set for a year. But you can often find big savings by reviewing regular purchases on a budgeting site like That'll tell you if you're spending too much on coffee, MP3 downloads or other purchases. Savings here can be just as substantial, but you'll need to be regularly vigilant to keep them going.

For more information on saving money and other consumer tips click here.

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