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April 20, 2009

Find Cash You Didn't Know You Had

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Photo Credit: J. Hetherington/Getty Image

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Laid off? Taking a pay cut? Call your cable company, turn on the waterworks, and hint at having to downgrade from premium—they could trim $10 from your bill and throw in six months of free HBO. How else might you find cash between the couch cushions of your life? We asked the experts:

Haggle over everything. If you've paid your credit-card bill on time for the past six months, call and ask for a lower APR (this works about half the time, with an average savings in interest of 33 percent). If you carry a $9000 balance—the national average—and get your 20 percent APR reduced to 11 percent, you'll save $1000 this year. Also try it for mortgages, student loans, and car loans, says Jean Chatzky, author of The Difference: How Anyone Can Thrive in Even the Toughest Times.

Start a bidding war. Call and threaten to switch cable or phone carriers because of a competitor's better offer, says Farnoosh Torabi, author of You're So Money. (Do your research so you can be specific about their deal.) Your carrier may match, or at least lock in your rate, protecting it from an increase for a few more months.

Renew your rent. With tenancy rates dropping by at least 5 percent nationwide, owners are desperate to fill rentals—which means that when your lease is set to expire and you re-sign for another year, your landlord may be willing to lower the rent, upgrade you to a larger apartment at the same price, or offer free amenities, like parking or a membership to the building's gym. Even if your lease isn't up, there are such bargains to be had in most major cities that you may be able to break it, lose your deposit, and still come out ahead.

Get your match. Yes, your 401(k) and other investments have tanked, making contributing feel futile. But that's why Chatzky says it's all the more important to grab every matching dollar available to you—even if it's reduced—before your company kills the program altogether, as most may eventually do. Buying more stocks now may seem risky, but when the market rebounds, you'll have got in for cheap.

Kiss up to your financial adviser. She's having a rough time. A sympathetic phone call will buy so much goodwill that when the recession passes, she'll work her butt off for you—even if you account for the teeniest fraction of her company's business.

BOTTOM LINE: Up to $3000 saved.

Get 139 Ways to Save Money


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