Want to Lower Your Bills? Ask!

by Maurie Backman | Updated July 17, 2021 - First published on April 2, 2020

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You can save money by speaking up.

You can save money by speaking up. 

Years ago, when our promotional cable package ran out, my husband and I were shocked that our monthly bill had increased by $50. I immediately went on a cord-cutting rant and looked up streaming options. Then my husband gently reminded me that to watch my beloved local hockey games, I'd need cable. There was no getting around it. 

I was resigned to spending an extra $50 a month until my husband did a very smart thing -- he talked to someone in the cable company's customer service department. In the course of a 15-minute call, he negotiated a mere $10 increase instead of the $50.

Ever since, I speak up and negotiate when my bills go up, or when certain expenses are higher than I'm comfortable with. Take my kids' swim lessons, for example. I wanted them to take private lessons, but at $40 a pop, it was a prohibitively expensive prospect. But before giving up, I reached out to the swim school and asked for a multi-child discount. Their initial response was something along the lines of, "Sorry, we don't do that," but with a bit of mild nagging, I managed to get an offer of a modest but helpful $5 break on their initial price. 

If you've seen some of your bills increase, or are dealing with bills you can't easily afford, it pays to negotiate. Here are some tips for pulling that off. 

1. Play the customer loyalty card

You never know when a service provider might go the extra mile to retain a long-term customer with an account in good standing. Whether it's your cable company, your phone company, or your child's day care center that has increased rates, if you've paid a certain price for a while, don't hesitate to talk up the fact that you've been a good customer for a long time and deserve a break by virtue of that alone. 

2. Be willing to commit

A vendor or service provider may be willing to give you a discount if, in exchange, you promise to keep using that service. In my case, for a $10 increase to our monthly cable bill rather than $50, my husband and I committed to a year-long contract. You may need to do something similar to snag a break, so make sure locking yourself in doesn't cost you more than it saves you. 

3. Be prepared to cancel or skip the service in question 

The swim school that came down on its price was highly recommended, but I was willing to take my business elsewhere if that $40 per lesson didn't come down, and I made that clear. I also mentioned a couple of competitors whose rates were lower to prove I was ready to walk away. The reality was that I had my heart set on that specific school -- but that's not something I shared in my negotiations.

If you're going to try to get a service provider to come down on its price, know what the competition is charging, and make it clear that you'll take advantage of that pricing if push comes to shove. 

Of course, there are some bills you may not manage to negotiate, like water, heating, and electricity. Utility companies don't tend to be flexible. That said, you never know who might be willing to come down on a price, so it never hurts to ask for a discount. The worst thing that will happen is that you'll be told no, and if all does go well, you'll have an opportunity to bank some savings and buy yourself more financial flexibility. 

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