9 bills where you can cut a better deal

The word “bills” used to be synonymous with “fixed expenses.” But there’s nothing fixed about many of the bills a typical household pays today.

Some bills have introductory rates that expire, shooting monthly costs skyward. Others offer secret discounts or upgrades to those in the know. Providers constantly tweak their plans and pricing, which means long-term customers can overpay by hundreds of dollars a year.

In my latest for the Associated Press, a look at 9 bills where you can negotiate a better deal.

How to Pay Bills When You Can’t Pay Your Bills

stack-of-billsWhen Bruce McClary was a housing counselor, his clients regularly showed up for appointments with grocery bags full of unopened bills.

“It wasn’t unusual. They couldn’t pay the bills, so they didn’t open them,” says McClary, who now works in public relations for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.

Ignoring bills seems to work — at least for a while. The repo man typically won’t take your car if you’re a little late with your payment (although he can). Credit card companies and student lenders may start to call, but you can always send them to voicemail. Foreclosures can take months, if not years, depending on where you live.

In my latest for NerdWallet, how to put a plan together when the money you have just isn’t enough.

Tuesday’s need-to-know money news

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailToday’s top story: How to get fired up about saving money. Also in the news: How much you should be saving for the holidays, using “bill fixers” to negotiate lower rates, and the top beliefs that are keeping you broke.

4 Ways to Get Yourself Fired Up About Saving Money
Keeping yourself motivated.

How Much Should You Save Up for Christmas?
Budgeting tips to keep your holiday spending under control.

Should You Use a Third Party to Negotiate Your Cable Bill?
Welcome to the world of “bill fixers.”

Top 7 Beliefs Keeping You Broke
What’s holding you back from better money habits?

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

stack-of-billsToday’s top story: The bills you need to prioritize when you’re short on cash. Also in the news: Divorcing your financial adviser before your spouse, what to do when you get an inheritance, and the potential drawbacks to buying a home with an FHA loan.

Prioritize These 5 Bills When You’re Short on Cash
Creating an order of importance.

Before divorcing your spouse, consider divorcing your financial adviser
You’ll need someone who’s only in your corner.

What to do when you get an inheritance
Besides tapdancing, of course.

The Drawbacks of Buying a Home With an FHA Loan
Knowing the potential downsides.

FTC Shuts Down 12 ‘Rogue’ Debt Collectors
The tactics they used to collect a debt will stun you.

Daily money managers can help pay the bills

Dear Liz: I read with interest your answers about older people who need a trusted gatekeeper to keep others from taking financial advantage. I want to let you know there’s great help out there for seniors: the American Assn. of Daily Money Managers. We daily money managers provide assistance to people who have difficulty managing their personal bill-paying responsibilities and associated personal paperwork. This service offers a cost-effective way for clients to get assistance with organizing, bill paying, balancing checkbooks and reviewing statements from a trusted source. A daily money manager does not replace the services of other professionals — such as CPAs, banks, financial planners and attorneys — but assists clients with daily affairs and helps maintain records and information that is essential for these professionals. People can find more information at the association’s website, http://www.aadmm.com.

Answer: Thanks for pointing out this resource. Many older Americans have trouble with household money management. They may forget to pay bills or keep track of their account balances, leading to bounced checks. Organizing their paperwork and collecting information for tax returns can become an ordeal. Some people have trusted family members who have the time to take over. For others, daily money managers can be the answer.

Daily money managers are distinct from conservators or guardians, however. They aren’t supervised by the courts, so potential clients need to take care in hiring one. In addition to the AADMM’s website, people may be able to get referrals from financial professionals such as a lawyer, financial planner or accountant. The daily money manager should be insured and willing to work with those professionals.

Daily money managers aren’t limited to helping only seniors. They also can help busy executives, travelers and people with attention deficit disorders who have trouble keeping up with daily financial details.