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It's not just families who are in the hole right now. Banks and businesses are too -- which is why they'll bend over backward to keep your business, says David Bach, author of Start Over, Finish Rich: 10 Steps to Get You Back on Track in 2010 (Broadway). "Everybody is demanding better prices, and most places are giving in," he says. "But if you don't ask, you don't receive." So now's the time to go over every bill sitting on your desk and start haggling. For cable, Internet, and phone, companies will slash fees when you combine all three services. Sites like BillShrink.com can analyze your cell phone usage and direct you to the cheapest plan available. Shop around for bargains on auto coverage at NetQuote.com, or bundle it with your existing home or life insurer to save up to 15 percent. Ask credit card issuers to lower your interest rates, and request service providers to extend new-customer promotions to you. If they balk, threaten to switch to someone else, a tactic that often works.
By making a few calls, you can save at least 10 percent this year. Need proof? Bach has done it himself many times, bargaining over everything from his insurance (down by 20 percent) to bookkeeping charges (saving $200 a month). "There's never been a better time to renegotiate," he says. "You're in the driver's seat."