Tighten the belt in 2009: Fees to avoid

Here are three fees and charges related to household bills that you could potentially cut out:

■ From small home security firms and heating oil delivery services to major telecom providers, a growing number of companies are charging "manual billing" fees for sending paper bills and statements, sometimes as much as $3.50 a month.

Sign up for e-mail billing or check your statements online, and save as much as $42 a year.

■ Homeowner and auto insurance can often be paid in installments, but spreading out payments comes at a price.

Fees vary, but expect $4 or $5 tacked on each month for installments, or as much as $30 extra for a six-month policy.

■ National utilities, cable and Internet providers now commonly charge as much as $15 for making a payment over the phone — a "pay to pay" fee. These fees are often waived online, so set up your accounts on the company Web sites in case you have to make a last-minute payment.

Associated Press