Wednesday, January 14, 2009

MOre Cash in your pocket

These are the guidelines on cutting your expenses and saving on taxes are guaranteed to put money in your pocket and your savings accounts.

1. Get your spending under control by using a free online budgeting Web site, such as This secure site tracks your checking, credit-card and investment accounts and offers money-saving tips, such as where you can cut costs or get a better rate on your credit card. Other free sites, including Wesabe and Geezeo, offer similar budgeting tools, but focus more on their online communities where users share strategies.

2. Set up a flexible spending account to help pay for medical expenses. If your employer offers this benefit, you can stash pretax dollars in the account and use the money to pay for out-of-pocket bills, including physician co-payments, prescription drugs, eyeglasses and braces for the kids' teeth. You can even spend the money on over-the-counter medications, such as antacids and pain relievers.

3. File a new Form W-4. If you got a tax refund for 2008, adjusting your withholding will fatten your paycheck for 2009.

4. Raise your insurance deductibles. Increasing the deductible on your car insurance from $250 to $1,000 can save up to 15% on your premiums -- or about $125 per year on an average premium of $829. Upping the deductible on your homeowners policy can slice your rate by about 25%, or $191 on an average premium of $764.

5. Cut the cost of credit. If you tend to carry a monthly credit-card balance, go with a low-interest-rate card, such as Wells Fargo's Prime Rate card, with a 5% interest rate and $19 annual fee. For gasoline or travel perks, try the BP Visa card or Simmons First Visa Platinum Travel Rewards card.

6. Open an online savings account, such as the one at, which was recently paying 3.25%, or about $100 a year on a $3,000 deposit. You can open the account with just $1, and there are no monthly fees or minimum-balance requirements.

7. Bump up your 401(k) contributions. Already have an emergency stash? With stocks on sale, now is a great time to build or rebuild your retirement kitty.