I’m always looking for ways to save money. With a husband and three kids, two of whom are in college, it’s a necessity.
Inspired by the "Challenge Everything" experiment at Budgets are Sexy, I decided to find extra money in our budget.
As I paid my bills last month, I examined each one closely to find a way to lower it -- and then called customer service to make it happen. Here’s how five phone calls helped me slash our monthly bills by almost $800.
I pay my bills on time each month and stick with the same providers year after year -- I’ve been with one satellite TV company for 20+ years.
I used this to my advantage by expressing my loyalty to the customer service agents, but also asking them to lower my bill or risk losing me as a customer. I also brought up the company's own ads offering bonuses to new customers.
Most companies want to keep their customers, and therefore have a retention specialist on hand. If you’re not getting anywhere with the first agent, ask to speak with this person.
The first bills I tackled were the “extras” -- any optional services where I knew there was room to negotiate.
Entertainment is a big expense in our family, since my husband and three sons all love to watch TV and play online games. But with two kids in college, did we really use our current package?
Our services are bundled, and we pay for satellite TV, Internet and a landline on one bill. (The landline is free as part of the bundle.)
When I explained to the customer rep I needed to lower my bill, he offered to reduce it by $12 a month for one year.
This single call to my Internet and phone provider saved us $144 for the year.
The satellite TV service is packaged with our phone and Internet, so cancelling it isn’t an option. I needed to make another call to talk to this company.
After reviewing the channels we watched, I decided to continue the service we have for now. I called the company and quoted their current offer for new customers, and stated I felt I should be rewarded for being a longtime customer.
Their first offer was a $10 credit, which I politely refused. After the second call, I was eventually offered a savings of $30 a month for three months for keeping the same service. As a bonus, they also offered me three months of free movie channels!
Total savings from call #2: $90 a year
I’ve been with the same cell phone company for the past 15 years and didn’t want to switch. So, I called and asked what they could do to keep me as a loyal customer.
Prior to the call, I examined my bill. I noticed I was paying for insurance on an older phone, so I dropped it and saved almost $7 a month.
Then, I was offered a $25 credit -- which customers can receive every six months. I switched to paperless billing and earned another $10 credit.
Total savings from call #3: $109 a year
Next, I called my credit card companies to see if they could lower my rates. None can at this time, but I have several offers to transfer balances for 0% interest.
I also cancelled a travel rewards card with an annual fee of $85. I had received 50,000 points when I first signed up and used those points to book free travel. The company canceled the card and transferred my credit line to another card.
Savings from call #4: $85 a year
I’m currently on the income-based repayment plan, and I updated my current income to save $30 a month. You’ll usually do this yearly, but you can also do it anytime you have a change in income.
While I was on the phone with the representative, I also made sure I was on track for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and verified I have made 5.5 years of qualifying payments on the 10-year plan.
This means I only have 4.5 more years until the rest of my loans are forgiven, since I work in public service.
This was my last and most successful call. After call #5, I was able to save $360 a year!
This whole system assumes you have excellent credit and are a loyal customer. If that’s not the case, it would probably be in your best interest to switch companies and take advantage of new customer bonuses.
Be polite, but never take the first offer. Remind the representative you are a loyal customer and should be rewarded. Ask for a lower bill or a one-time credit.
Here are the results of my five phone calls:
Cell phones: $109
Credit card: $85
Student loans: $360
Total savings: $788 a year
I was on the phone for most of the morning, but the results were worth it. Now I have almost $800 to put toward college expenses for my kids.
As a follow up to this challenge, watch out for service charges and change-in-service fees.
I hadn't thought about these at all -- what a shock to open my phone/internet bill and see a $200 fee tacked on!
I immediately contacted the company and asked them to please remove the charge. The fee was due to an early cancellation of my bundle offer. However, the company doesn’t offer that package any longer, so the fee should be waived.
Twenty minutes later, the customer service representative processed the forms, but said it was ultimately up to her supervisor.
After three more phone calls, I got the $200 charge removed -- but it was an annoying extra hassle. Be sure to ask about any extra fees you might incur by cancelling services!
Your Turn: Have you had success calling companies to lower your bills? Were you charged any change-of-service fees?
Sallie Hamrick has been living the frugal lifestyle for as long as she can remember. Mostly out of necessity, she was living the “tiny home life” before it was cool. Sallie is a nurse and teacher, and she lives with her family in the country.