What’s the easiest way to save money on your bills?
The answer is simple: ask for it.
I know it seems too good to be true. But over the years, I’ve developed a process of regularly contacting my vendors and utility providers to take advantage of savings and discounts that I’d otherwise be missing. With one call this spring, I saved $414 on my family’s cell phone plan. I also learned how to get 20% off every time I dine at my favorite restaurant.
Cutting my monthly expenses simply by asking the question is almost like finding free money! Here’s how to try it yourself.
Step 1: Call All the Companies that Bill You
You might be surprised by how many vendors you pay on a regular basis. Cable and internet providers, cell phone companies, insurance agencies, software providers, landscapers . . . the list goes on. If you don’t have a list readily available, check your credit card or bank statements and make one. (And remember to include that credit card company or bank if they charge a monthly or annual fee.) This is your hit list.
If you’ve ever called your cable company, you’ve probably waited on hold for too long. I use Fast Customer, an app that calls thousands of companies on your behalf and then patches you into the call once someone answers. No more waiting on hold!
Step 2: Ask for Discounts
When you’ve got a representative on the phone, say, “Hi, I’ve been a customer for [#] years, and I want to make sure I’m getting the best deal on my [phone] service.”
Then wait. Let the rep do the talking.
First, they’ll look up your current plan or pricing. Businesses often change their rates and offer new specials to be competitive, so merely asking for the best deal is the easiest way to get it. When a company reduces pricing for new customers, they don’t always call their old customers and hand out discounts. It’s your responsibility to ask. Last month, I cut my cell phone bill by $70 per month because AT&T released new plans.
Step 3: Fish for Deals
If the simple question doesn’t work, you might have to dig a little. Ask these questions, and chances are you’ll find savings somewhere:
Use their Marketing
“I saw a commercial about some new promotion you guys are offering . . . what is that?”
It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen a commercial, or an ad in a magazine, or a banner on their website. Or maybe you saw a competitor’s ad and you’re confusing it for theirs. The point is to ask about marketing, and let them tell you what specials are running.
Use their Competitors
“[Competitor name] keeps sending me things in the mail with really good deals. I really don’t want to leave you guys, so is there something you can do to help?”
This is a hot button, and many customer service representatives are trained to offer deals only when a customer is about to jump ship.
Use Favorable Terms
“Is there any discount for pre-payment, or for paying in cash?”
Local vendors especially will gladly offer discounts for favorable payment terms, and if you’ve got the money, you might as well take the savings!
“Do you offer discounts for any associations or clubs?”
AAA has saved me more money than I can count. You also want to check whether they offer gift cards for their service at a warehouse club — I buy restaurant gift cards at Costco at 20% off.
Step 4: If You Don’t Get a Deal, Get Something Else
If a company can’t or won’t provide any sort of discount or new pricing, they might be able to give you something extra for the same price.
Get Free Trials or Upgrades
“Is there anything else you can do for me? Do you offer trials of premium services?”
For instance, almost every time I call DirecTV I end up with a three-month trial of HBO. With local vendors, sometimes employees aren’t authorized to provide discounts, but they can offer some type of upgrade or one-time promotion.
“Do you run specials at any time during the year, so I can call back?”
Many businesses have annual promotions and their representatives will give you all the details on how to take advantage of those deals when the time comes.
“Is it possible to move back my bill date to later in the month?”
Pushing back a due date isn’t something you can do often. However, it can effectively give you a couple free weeks of service.
Step 5: If You Get a Deal, Make it Count
This one is big. If you get a discount, or qualify for a new plan or pricing, ask if you can get a credit for the previous month (or previous several months) that the new pricing or promotion was available. This way, you capture every last cent that they’re willing to give you!
These savings can multiply quickly, and will often be applied as credits on your account so that your bills drop dramatically for the next month.
Why Not Try?
Using this process, I spend less than an hour on the phone every few months and walk away with savings or benefits each time. I’ve gotten better internet speed, a cheaper cell phone plan, free shipping, extra channels, credits toward future purchases and thousands of dollars in discounts.
All you have to do is ask.
Your Turn: How much have you been able to save, just by asking?
Chris Ronzio helps business owners organize chaos and get things done so they have more time to do what they love. As a high school student, he founded a nationwide video production business that sold over $2 million in youth sporting event videos. Visit his site for more time-saving tips!