Give yourself the gift of savings

To give yourself a gift that keeps giving year-round, try these money-saving

tips.

* Homeowners/renters insurance

1. You can save several hundred dollars a year on homeowners insurance

and up to $50 a year on renters insurance by purchasing a policy from a

low-price, licensed insurer. Ask your state insurance department for a publication

showing typical prices of licensed companies. Then call at least four of

the lowest-priced insurers to learn what they would charge you. If such

a publication is not available, it is even more important to call at least

four insurers for price quotes.

2. Make certain you purchase enough coverage to replace the house and

its contents. "Replacement" on the house means rebuilding to its current

condition.

3. Make certain your new policy is in effect before dropping your old

one.

* Auto insurance

1. You can save several hundred dollars a year by purchasing auto insurance

from a licensed, low-price insurer. Call your state insurance department

for a publication showing typical prices charged by different companies.

Then call at least four of the lowest-priced, licensed insurers to learn

what they would charge you for the same coverage.

2. Talk to your agent or insurer about raising your deductibles on collision

and comprehensive coverage to at least $500 or dropping this coverage if

you have an old car. Taking these steps can save you hundreds of dollars

a year.

3. Make certain that your new policy is in effect before dropping your

old one.

* Life insurance

1. If you want insurance protection only, and not a savings and investment

product, buy a term life insurance policy.

2. If you want to buy a whole life, universal life or other cash-value

policy, plan to hold it for at least 15 years. Canceling these policies

after only a few years can more than double your life insurance costs.

3. Check at your public library for information about the financial

soundness of insurance companies and the prices they charge. "Consumer Reports"

is a valuable source of information about a number of insurers.

* Checking

1. You can save more than $100 a year in fees by selecting a checking

account with a low (or no) minimum balance requirement that you can meet.

Request a list of these and other fees that are charged on these accounts.

2. Banking institutions often will drop or lower checking fees if you

have your paycheck deposited directly into your account. Direct deposit

offers the additional advantages of convenience, security and immediate

access to your money.

* Savings and investment products

1. Before opening a savings or investment account with a bank or other

financial institution, find out whether the account is insured by the federal

government (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or National Credit Union

Association). An increasing number of products, including mutual stock funds

and annuities, are not insured.

2. To earn the highest return on savings (annual percentage yield) with

little or no risk, consider certificates of deposit and Treasury bills or

notes.

3. Once you select a type of savings or investment product, compare

rates and fees offered by different institutions. These rates can vary a

lot and, over time, significantly affect interest earnings.

* Credit cards

1. You can save as much as a thousand dollars each year in lower interest

charges by paying off your entire bill each month.

2. If you are unable to pay off a large balance, pay as much as you

can and switch to a credit card with a low annual percentage rate. For a

modest fee, {http://www.ramresearch.com} RAM Research Group Ltd., (800)

344-7714, will send you a list of low-rate cards.

3. You can reduce credit card fees, which may add up to more than $100

a year, by getting rid of all but one or two cards, and by avoiding late

payment and credit limit fees.

Zall, Bureaucratus columnist and a retired federal employee, is a freelance

writer based in Silver Spring, Md. He specializes in taxes, investing, business

and government workplace issues. He is a certified internal auditor and

a registered investment adviser. He can be reached at miltzall@starpower.net.

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