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Got five minutes to cut costs on your bills? Add to ...

Another year has come and gone and you're wondering how to improve your finances. You've relinquished your latte habit and given your shoe fetish the boot, yet you don't seem to be able to save as much as you'd like. It's too hard to trim expenses, you say. It takes too much time to budget. And, blech, comparison shopping for the best prices zaps your strength.

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Take heed, spendthrifts, there is an easier way to save money. Put aside your excuses for five minutes as we guide you through five easy steps to a wealthier new year.

1. Mortgage

If you do nothing else to save money in the new year, take five minutes to see how increasing or accelerating your mortgage payments can save you thousands of dollars in interest. Grab your latest mortgage statement, plug your numbers into Industry Canada's online mortgage calculator, then play around with the figures.

See how much you could save if you switched to biweekly payments or increased the amount by 5 per cent or more.

The site can also show you what would happen to your payments if interest rates changed or you refinanced your mortgage. That should provide all the incentive you need to plan your mortgage-burning party.



2. Insurance

If you have a house and a car, you're likely spending thousands of dollars a year on insurance. Kanetix.ca is an excellent one-stop resource for comparing home, auto, health, travel and life insurance policies. Fill out a simple form about your driving history, for example, and you'll get free quotes from more than 40 auto insurance providers. Use those quotes to find a cheaper policy or negotiate a lower rate with your current provider.

And while you're reviewing your rates, take a few minutes to think about whether your home insurance is adequate. If you've recently inherited grandma's jewellery, notify your insurance provider to make sure it's covered.



3. Banking

Considering how much profit the big banks make from consumer fees, you owe it to yourself to spend five minutes trying to reduce your piece of the pie. Pull out a recent bank statement and use it to fill out a personal profile at the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada's online comparison tool. Answer a few questions about your average balance and how often you do certain transactions, and you'll get a list of the financial institutions with the lowest-fee banking packages that best meet your needs.



4. Mobile

Do you really need that unlimited wireless plan? You won't know unless you do your research. A Billshrink.com survey found eight out of 10 people are paying an average of $300 more than they need to each year on their wireless bills because their plans do not suit their needs. Spend five minutes at a cellphone comparison site such as CellPlanExpert.ca, answer a few questions about your talking and texting habits, and you'll get a list of cellphone plans, complete with prices and features.



5. Credit cards

According to RateSupermarket.ca, nearly half of Canadians have not changed their credit card company in the past five years. If you're part of that complacent group, it's time to do some comparison shopping. You can find online comparison tools at many sites, including the FCAC. Answer a few questions about your spending habits and what type of card you'd like and voilà: a table of credit cards appears with all the fees and features compared. Spending five minutes to find a better credit card deal: priceless.







Follow on Twitter: @diannenice

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