If you’re savings-savvy, negotiating is a great way to save on big-ticket items like a new car or home. But did you ever consider negotiating some of your smaller monthly expenses, too?
Contrary to common belief, you are not stuck with whatever rates your service providers offer you. Many recurring expenses, like phone service and even utilities, can be negotiated lower. And every extra dollar you can shave off your budget means one more dollar you can put towards something else—like paying off that credit card, building up your retirement funds, or saving for that fantastic family vacation.
Consider these common budget categories you may be paying too much for—and how you can go about negotiating a better rate for yourself:
Explore alternative options like free streaming TV and discounted subscriptions through services like Hulu, Netflix, and Roku. But if you still feel the need to pay for satellite or cable television service, there are ways to save.
Chances are you’ve noticed how often your current provider advertises great starter rates for new customers. You may have even gotten one yourself when you first signed up with them. But now that you’re a regular, longstanding customer, you find yourself paying hefty “standard” rates—and getting jealous of all the new customers who are getting a better bargain.
You don’t have to put up with it. Call the customer service line and let the company know that, as a loyal customer, you don’t like the fact that new customers are being treated way better than you are. You may not be able to get the special introductory rate you once had, but you could snag yourself some perks, like access to premium movie channels for 6 months or the ability to switch to a new package that wasn’t available when you first joined.
First and foremost: If you never use your landline, ditch it and go mobile-only. If you rely heavily on your landline and only need a cell phone for emergencies, consider a TracFone or pay-as-you-go service, so you only pay for what you need.
If, however, your cell phone is your lifeline and your extra appendage, there are still ways you can save. Take a long, hard look at your package terms and monthly usage to make sure you’re not paying for more minutes than you need. If you think you’re stuck with a pricey package just because the next level down doesn’t give you what you need, think again.
Some companies offer unadvertised packages that you won’t know about unless you ask. Call up and ask if there are any preferred customer rates or employer discounts you might qualify for.
If you’re out of contract, or your contract is due to expire soon, don’t renew! That one- or two-year contract might have snagged you a great deal on your phone, but if you don’t care about upgrading to the latest device, you can negotiate a lower monthly rate once you’re out of the contract because the provider knows they don’t have you hooked.
Don’t be fooled into thinking the big players in your area are your only options. More and more alternative energy providers are cropping up who might be able to offer you a more competitive rate. And even if your company has a monopoly in your area, there are still ways you cut your costs.
If you’ve recently installed energy-saving measures like upgraded windows and better insulation, your utility company might be willing to conduct an energy audit (or consider one from a third party) as leverage for negotiating a lower rate.
If you live in an area where temperatures fluctuate wildly from season to season, your heat provider may offer a budget billing option that spreads your heating costs across all months, meaning you’ll pay the same low, fixed amount each month (based on your past usage) rather than getting socked with huge bills in colder seasons. Monthly budget plans may also be available to you based on your current household income.
Credit Card Rates
Sick of seeing all the new low- or no-interest offers in your mail, while you continue to pay the same high rates on existing cards? (Or watch your APR climb even though your credit rating is good?)
You don’t have to deal with the hand the credit card companies have dealt you; many are more than willing to work with you to retain your business, as they know you’ve got plenty of other options out there.
If you’ve been making your payments regularly and/or paying more than the minimum, then you are a customer in good standing, and your company should be willing to fight to keep you.
Call up and let them know you’re thinking of transferring your balance to one of the many zero-interest cards that are currently courting you. Ask if there’s anything they can do to make it worth your while to stay with them. Most won’t let you walk without trying to offer you something—it’s up to your persistence how big their offer might be.
The chart below shows a comparison between 20% and 15% APR, and what you can expect to be paying over 12 months.
Negotiate the Right Way
Whatever you’re trying to negotiate, the key to success lies in keeping your tone polite, respectful, and calm. As tempted as you may be to let them know how ridiculous you think your current fees are, companies will be much more willing to work with you if you say how much you’ve enjoyed their service and emphasize your history as a loyal customer.
Keep it positive, phrase it as a win-win, and most of all, give it a try! You never know what you can get unless you ask!