Shop for Insurance Deals
Why it's important: You're always looking for the best prices—why not on home and auto insurance, too? You're nuts if you don't comparison shop for auto insurance; you could save 10 percent or more. (But don't reduce your level of coverage. You want the right coverage for the best price.)
Do this now: Go to InsWeb.com and NetQuote.com to find premium quotes from a variety of home and auto insurers. (For auto quotes from Progressive and GEICO, go to their websites.)
Raise Your Insurance Deductibles
Why it's important: Low deductibles of $250 or so can entice you to make claims for small-ticket items. Do that too often and your insurer may boost your premium or boot you completely. And there's a nice payoff for a higher deductible: Raise your auto and home deductibles to $1,000 or more and your premium cost falls at least 10 percent.
Do this now: Call your current insurer and ask for a new quote based on a higher deductible. (But do this only if you have an emergency savings fund that can cover the cost of the deductible. Don't have that emergency fund set up? Grrr. See Build Security .)
Check Out a Credit Union
Why it's important: Credit unions are often a better deal than banks and tend to pay higher yields on deposits.
Do this now: Go to FindaCreditUnion.com and look for one that is part of the federal insurance program run by the National Credit Union Administration (go to NCUA.gov and click on Consumer Share Insurance Information and Tool Kit to check). Coverage is the same as at an FDIC bank—$250,000 per person per credit union is fully insured, and additional coverage is based on the types of accounts you hold.
Challenge Your Property-Tax Assessment
Why it's important: Your tax is typically a percentage of your home's assessed value. If that assessment doesn't reflect today's market—home values are down an average of 30 percent since the 2006 peak—you may be overpaying. The National Taxpayers Union reports that more than half of all assessments are too high.
Do this now: Contact your county tax assessor to learn how to challenge your assessment. The National Taxpayers Union also has a booklet on the topic ($7; NTU.org ).
Step 3: Build Security