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Gerri Willis Commentary:
Top Tips by Gerri Willis Column archive

Cut the cost of your bare essentials

Some tips on saving money for those things that are impossible to cut completely out of your budget.

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By Gerri Willis, CNN

For more information on managing your largest investment, check out Gerri Willis' 'Home Rich,' now in bookstores.
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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- There are some things you just can't live without. But here's how you can pay less for your essentials.

1. Check your plan

Is the grass always greener with someone else's cell phone plan or credit card?

Check out billshrink.com. This free Web site lets you enter in some information about your usage and compares this against other offerings in the market.

You'll get a personalized list of what other cell phone plans or credit cards would fit your needs - and an estimate of how much you would save annually by switching.

2. Get the resources

It's rare to find anything free - especially in health care. But we've put together a few resources for free and reduced cost services.

Check out free Federal clinics at ask.hrsa.gov/pc You do not have to have health insurance. Pay what you can afford. You can get immunizations, checkups, dental care and prescription drugs.

Find out what free clinics and other free care is available in your area at the Association of Medical Colleges. That Web site is aamc.org/uninsured.

If it's just medicine you need, you'll want to check out some programs intended to cut the cost of prescription drugs. Many drug manufacturers sponsor what's called "patient assistance programs". These programs are intended to help those who otherwise can't afford prescription drugs. Here are some places to go: freemedicineprogram.org and rxassist.org.

3. Cut your insurance

Keep your credit score as high as you can because it's the basis for the rate you pay on car insurance.

Most car insurers filter your credit information into a formula to determine what your "insurance risk score" is. This score determines how likely you are to file a claim.

And what you do for a living counts, too. Some insurance companies give discounts for people in certain low-risk professions in a few states. If you're an economist, an accountant or a teacher you may be able to shave some dollars off your bill.

If its home insurance you want to lower, consider raising your deductible. Don't lower your coverage - but think about raising the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance kicks in. And ask about group coverage.  To top of page

Gerri's Mailbox: Got questions about your money? We want to hear them! Send an e-mail,we'll answer questions on CNN, Headline News and CNNMoney.com.
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