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How to make up Social Security tax shortfall

Look at your paycheck lately? Get ready for a shock when $20 or more is zapped out each week to cover a bump in Social Security taxes.

A temporary payroll tax break granted during the recession goes away this year, as part of the fiscal cliff deal.

Cut 2 percent off a salary of $60,000 and you're saying goodbye to $1,200 a year — or $100 a month.

Where do you make up the shortfall?

GET GREEN BY WATCHING UTILITY BILLS: If you're running a second older refrigerator in the basement, it could be costing $10 or more a month or $120 a year, said energy analyst Bob Fegan. You can save 10 percent on a heating or cooling bill by dialing your thermostat down (or up) one or two degrees all day long, and change it by five more degrees at night or when at work, Fegan said.

Another option: Some experts say consumers can cut an electric bill by $60 a year if they replace standard bulbs in their five most-frequently used light fixtures with Energy Star compact fluorescent light bulbs.

TREAT $100 LIKE $100: Price check your car insurance.

John Egan, managing editor for InsuranceQuotes.com, said bumping up a deductible from $200 to $500 can cut a car insurance premium by 15 to 30 percent. Raising a deductible from $200 to $1,000 could cut the premium by as much as 40 percent.

Consumers can get discounts of 15 percent to 30 percent off premiums if they obtain car and homeowner's insurance with the same company.

CUT OUT CREDIT CARD AND CHECKING ACCOUNT FEES: See whether you're paying an extra $15 a month for an interest-bearing checking account, said Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

The interest rate being paid might be as little as 0.05 percent of the money in your checking account. So why pay roughly $180 a year if you fall below the minimum balance?

Find free checking either via direct deposit or a community bank or credit union with no strings attached.

Other fees: Are you paying $10 a month for credit card protection plans or credit monitoring services? Here's another way to save $120 a year — if you ditch those plans.

Do you pay $4 to $5 a pop to use an ATM not connected to your bank? Save $60 a year — if you pay that fee once a month.

WATCH OUT FOR SEASONAL DEALS — AND REAL DEALS: If you want to save hundreds of dollars on clothing, wait two months after new clothes arrive at the store so you can buy them at serious markdowns, said Lindsay Sakraida, features director for Dealnews.com.

The end of January is a good time to buy winter coats at up to 70 percent off, she said. Late January and February are good times to replace electronics, such as TVs, if you buy last year's models. February and March tend to offer better deals on linens and bedding, according to Dealnews.com.

OTHER WAYS TO SAVE:

• Do you regularly spend $40 a month on exercise classes that you don't attend? Or do you frequently spend $40 a month on a blah dinner out? Find a way to eliminate $40 a month, and you're saving $480 a year.

• Do you really need that landline when everyone reaches you on your cell phone? Can you opt for a prepaid cell plan with fewer bells and whistles? What about the cost of your Internet plan? Compare plans and ask for a lower price with existing providers.

How to make up Social Security tax shortfall 01/21/13 [Last modified: Sunday, January 20, 2013 6:26pm]

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