It’s easy to get into the habit of paying your bills every month without giving them much thought.
I’ve always heard that you could negotiate some bills but it was just one of those things I never got around to doing.
So one day last month, I figured I’d give it a shot and see if I could lower my bills with some phone calls.
It costs many companies a lot more money to obtain a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.
So while they may not advertise it in their commercials and ads, many are willing to negotiate and offer a discount if you’re thinking about leaving.
They’d rather give you a lower rate and lose a few bucks per month than to lose you as a customer entirely. In many cases, all you have to do is call.
In four out of the five phone calls I made, I was able to save some money simply by asking.
Eight dollars here and ten dollars there doesn’t sound like much but when you put together the savings and stretch them out on a monthly basis, it can easily add up to $1,000 or more per year.
So I figured I’d give it a try. Here’s how I lowered my monthly bills by $100.
Cable and High-speed Internet
With a virtual monopoly in my city on cable service, there aren’t any options to shop around.
I need the cable line for the high-speed internet service and I still prefer the old fashioned cable. But over the past few years, my bill has risen every year and at $120 per month, it really starts to add up over time.
[Related Article: 5 Ways to Cut the Cable Cord]
I called my cable provider explaining that I’ve been a loyal customer for 12 years and wanted to see what I could do about my rate.
Without even flinching, they immediately offered a deal that would drop my rate by $20 per month and lock it in with a 2-year commitment. I was on and off the phone in less than 10 minutes.
Savings: $20 per month for two years. $540 in all.
Many Americans are ditching their home phones in droves and relying simply on their cell phones.
I still need a land line for my home office.
I had been paying $31 per month for a premium service with a national VOIP provider. The package has served me well but like other providers, they’ve slowly raised my rate over the years.
Meanwhile, other options have been coming on the market everyday. I may shop around but figured I would at least see what my provider could do.
I called and told them that I was going to either have to scale back my plan or look for other options.
With five years as a loyal customer with a stellar payment record they said they didn’t want to lose me.
Within a couple of minutes, the representative came back and said they coincidentally had a “special promotion” that would reduce my rate to $14.99 for a year.
After that year is up, she said there would more than likely be “another promotion” to keep my bill lower.
I still may switch carriers in the near future but I’m already saving by making the call.
Savings: $16 per month. $192 in one year.
Okay, it’s far from being a necessity but I’ve had satellite radio in my car for over 5 years and love it. But I’ve recently started to question if it’s worth $16 per month.
That’s almost $200 per year I was spending to listen to music in my truck when I barely even drive that much.
So like the others, I called the service provider and basically explained the situation.
I told them that while I loved their service, I questioned the value of it and was considering adding it to my list of budget cuts.
Within a few minutes, they came back on the phone and offered 2 months free service after which my rate would drop to $8.99 per month indefinitely. I still said no and put in a cancellation date.
About a week after my cancellation, I got a letter in the mail offering me a price of only $25 for six months.
That’s a rate of $4.17 per month, only a fourth of what I was paying before I called.
Savings: $32 (two months free service) plus $12 per month. $176 in the first year.
Experts say you should shop around for auto insurance rates every couple of years. Because auto insurers are constantly reassessing their risk and driver portfolios, rates can frequently change.
Your insurer may have the best rate for you now but two years later, their competitor could be 18% cheaper.
I spent about an hour online running quote estimates and found three insurance companies were offering lower premiums than my existing insurer.
One actually quoted a rate that was about 35% cheaper than what I was paying now. It factored in about an 8% discount if I paid my six-month premium in full.
The savings in all were about $500 or $41 per month, a pretty significant chunk of change.
[Related Article: 8 Car Insurance Discounts You Need to Know About]
So I called back my insurance company and told them the situation. I explained that I could save up to $500 with the exact same coverage with another company.
The representative did some poking around and found an additional anti-theft discount on one of our vehicles that saved me an additional $30 per year.
I ultimately changed insurers the following week because the savings were just too significant to pass up.
Savings: $500 per year, or $41 per month.
People join gyms all the time and then quit a couple of months later. Some require commitments, others don’t. I’ve been a member at my gym for about three years.
The membership isn’t cheap but I do take full advantage of it and the two hours of free childcare per day helps out as a working parent.
I called membership to see if there were any discounts or anything we could do to lower my rate.
I played hardball, eventually alluded to the fact that I was going to cancel my membership and it went nowhere. It was the only call where I struck out.
[Related Article: How to Score a Sweet Deal on a Gym Membership]
Whether there was truly nothing they could do, or whether they just called my bluff, they seemed to have little concern if I was going to leave.
I may shop around for another gym in the future but the child care benefits are what keep me there for the time being.
There are other things that are often up for negotiation including the interest rates you pay on your credit cards.
If you’ve been a long term account holder, have a good payment history and good credit, you can often talk down the interest rate you are paying.
[Related Article: How to Negotiate a Lower APR]
They may also offer you balance transfer specials allowing you to pay little or no interest on a balance.
Craig Guillot is a business and personal finance writer from New Orleans. He covers insurance, investing, real estate, retirement and debt. His work has appeared in such publications and web sites as Entrepreneur, CNNMoney.com, CNBC.com, Bankrate.com and Investor’s Business Daily. He is the author of “Stuff About Money: No BS Financial Advice for Regular People.”