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How to renegotiate your bills to save money

How to renegotiate your bills to save money
Posted at 5:50 PM, Aug 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-14 17:50:22-04

I know, I know. You’ve probably heard all about how you should renegotiate your bills to save money. But that’s easier said than done, right?

That’s why I tried it out. I called up some of my service providers and attempted to cut the cost of my bills.

Here’s how you can learn from my successes — and improve upon my failures. (Spoiler alert: Be prepared to make sacrifices.)

Formulate a game plan

It’s a good idea to call up your service providers and subscription services annually to negotiate a better rate, ask about new promotions or cancel unnecessary bills. This is a powerful tool to save money.

These tactics can be used for securing a better deal on cable, internet, subscription services and more.

First, review all of your recurring payments by identifying charges on your credit card and bank account. Then, decide if you really want (or need) those anymore.

Make a list of the bills you would like to lower or cut out entirely. On my list: Satellite radio, cable, a clothing subscription and a movie loyalty program.

Next, look up each company’s website. You’ll usually find a variety of contact methods, including live chat, text messaging, email and a phone number.

While you’re searching online, gather information about your current package and pricing, as well as any new promotions from your current company or competitors that can be used as leverage.

Cut out what you don’t need

Set aside a block of time — maybe an hour or so — and work your way through the list.

My first call was to our satellite radio service provider. My husband and I have a SiriusXM subscription. But after months of spotty reception in our car, I decided it was time to cut the service completely.

Instead, over the course of a 10-minute phone call, I asked to cancel, then I was met with a better offer. Before, we paid $20.63 per month. Now, we pay $6.06 a month for 12 months (for the same plan). Plus, they threw in a free month.

Threatening to cancel a service can be a bargaining tactic. Here, it was the truth — I was fully ready and willing to cancel. And it got me a better price.

Next? That clothing subscription. A five-minute online chat with athletic brand Fabletics resulted in me canceling my membership. Before, I paid $49.95 a month as an account credit, unless I logged into my account and shopped or skipped by the fifth day of the month.

The customer service representative offered a $10 store credit to stay, but I went ahead and canceled anyway.

Downgrade

Be patient. There’s a time commitment involved. Plus, things don’t always work out.

I spent 45 minutes online chatting, then talking on the phone with DirecTV. But even after consulting with two representatives, my monthly payment remained around $150 before and after my interaction.

I was told there weren’t any discounts or promotions currently available for my account. And since I didn’t want to downgrade my package (I’m not ready to give up those Lifetime movies on LMN or game shows on Game Show Network), I’ll have to wait for future offers.

If you’re willing to change your TV lineup, review available channel packages online to find a slimmed-down option that works for you. Or call and talk to a representative.

Ask for help

Renegotiating bills is perhaps more important now, especially for those who are dealing with financial impacts related to the coronavirus. As the pandemic began taking an economic toll in the spring, providers across a broad spectrum of industries stepped up to extend payment assistance and waive late fees for customers.

I contacted some service providers to see how they’re continuing to help consumers who are struggling.

Most telecommunications companies, such as Dish and Comcast, provided similar advice: If existing customers have questions or are interested in lower monthly payments, they should go online or call customer service.

Contact companies proactively, and if you’ve been laid off or otherwise affected by the pandemic, be honest about your situation.

Look for resources that don’t require any effort, too. I thought I might need to cancel or renegotiate my $15-a-year AMC Stubs Premiere movie theater loyalty account. But the company had already temporarily paused my account in light of movie theater closures.

Renegotiating bills didn’t save me enough money to retire early. But I’ll manage to hold onto almost $200 over the next 12 months — which is more than if I hadn’t picked up the phone.

This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

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Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @CourtneyNerd.