When you read articles about ways to save money, you’ll often find the same platitudes. Skip your daily latte. Cut back on discretionary spending. Don’t go out to eat.
All of these suggestions work, but they can have a noticeable impact on your quality of life. Skipping your weekly brunch date with your friends can hurt your relationships and missing a monthly manicure can quickly make you resentful.
Instead, a good way to lower your costs is to look at the things you may be overpaying for: your bills. You may assume your bills are fixed, but many of them can be negotiated if you know how.
Keep reading to see how you can negotiate and lower your expenses. That’s more money for your daily coffee run.
Ask About Discounts
Sometimes companies have discounts that you’re eligible for but haven’t been receiving because you never asked. Make a spreadsheet with all the bills you pay every month including:
- Water, gas, and electric company
- Trash and recycling
- Car insurance
- Internet and cable
- Cell phone
Write down the basic type of service you receive and how much you pay. Write down the last time you negotiated your bill, if you’ve ever done it before.
First, call the company and ask if there are any eligible discounts. Your car insurance company may have a special deal if you bundle your homeowners and auto insurance together. Your cell phone company may be having a special promotion only available to current customers.
Make Companies Compete for You
If you want a lower bill, the best way to do that is to get an introductory offer from a new company. Most companies provide the best deals to new customers, to rope them in. Once that offer is over, they usually jack up your rates.
To get a lower rate, find what their competitor is charging for the same service. For example, if you have internet through Comcast, call AT&T and see how much they charge for internet. Make sure to compare the same speed and data packages. If you’re willing to downgrade, then let the company know.
How to Negotiate Utility Bills
Lowering your utility bills is harder than other service providers, usually because there’s only one company you can use. But you should still try to lower your bill.
Some energy companies have special programs where you can get a discount on your bill if you enroll. This may involve you using less energy that you would normally or letting them control your usage.
A budget bill plan won’t save you money, but it can help your cash flow. Budget billing is when a utility company averages your total bills and then decides on a new, fixed monthly bill. Instead of paying a huge heating bill in February, you’ll pay the same amount every month.
This helps because it makes it easier to budget your bills every month. It also prevents you from dipping into your savings when you have a high electric bill. Sometimes budget billing can be frustrating because it’s usually based on the prior year of service. If you’re moving to a new place then you may be billed based on the previous resident.
If you do get a lower rate, write down the date in your spreadsheet. Then make a note in your calendar so you can review the bill next year.
Should You Use a Third-Party to Negotiate?
Start-ups like Trim, Billshark, and Truebill promise to take the hassle out of negotiating a lower cable bill. They will contact the company and get a lower rate for you.
You’ll then pay them a portion of what they saved, anywhere from 33 to 50 percent. If they save you $20 off your monthly cell phone bill, you could owe them between $79 and $120.
This is a fairly significant amount to pay for something you can do yourself. It’s only worth using if you’re extremely busy, hate talking on the phone or have been putting this off for months.
The way to get a company to lower your bill is to ask nicely, explain what their competitors are charging and point out how much of a loyal customer you are.
If the customer service rep can’t do anything for you, ask to speak to a customer retention department. That department may have more bargaining power.