Managing your personal finances can be tricky and tedious. In fact, it’s often difficult to even know where to start. We’ll let you in on a little secret: Start now, and start by reducing financial waste. One of the more lucrative solutions could be cutting down on monthly bills that you’re already paying.
There are several common bills that likely come out of your account each month without a second thought. These might include your rent and mortgage payments, phone and internet bills, insurance, streaming services, and more. Some of these bills can be successfully negotiated. In the long run, they could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Why You Should Negotiate Bills
Negotiating your bills offers both short term and long term relief. A little less money will be withdrawn from your bank account each month, freeing up those funds for other immediate expenses.
Negotiating your bills also helps you save a larger amount of money over a longer period of time. Reallocate that money to help you achieve longer term financial goals, such as saving, investing, or paying down debt. It could also help you pay off other bills faster and in turn boost your credit score.
When negotiating, your bank, credit card issuer, or biller might say no — don’t get discouraged. It’s part of the process. Sometimes you will succeed, sometimes you will fail, and sometimes you will have to meet someone halfway.
If you don’t succeed, move on to the next bill negotiation or keep trying with a new representative. As a consumer, you have a lot more to gain that your provider has to lose. Recognize your power in the situation (respectfully, of course).
Common Bills You Can Negotiate
Before you start negotiating, it’s important to prepare. Scan the past three months of your bank statements and credit card bills. Make a list of all of your monthly expenses. Some types of bills may be negotiable, others may be more difficult.
It’s possible that you will need to research comparable services in your area. You can use competitive offerings as a leverage point in your negotiation. Work your way through your list, starting with the common negotiable bills listed below, and start reducing your financial waste.
1. Credit Card
You can start by negotiating your interest rates. Most credit cards have variable interest rates, meaning they fluctuate based on an ever-changing index. Credit card issuers can increase or decrease rates as long as they give you notice. However, you can also ask for a rate decrease yourself.
As a result of COVID-19, many credit card issuers are also willing to work with customers who are experiencing financial hardship. If you find yourself struggling to make your monthly payments, call your issuer and be transparent about your situation. It helps if you have had an account with the issuer for a while and have a positive payment history.
Before you call to negotiate the interest rate on your credit card, do your research. If you’ve received credit card offers with competitive interest rates from another company, include that in your negotiation. The more information you have to validate your request, the more likely you will succeed.
Negotiating a landline or cell phone bill may be slightly easier than negotiating a credit card interest rate. When you signed up for your phone plan, you may have opted into a feature that is no longer worth the cost. You can cut down on your phone bill in a number of ways. For instance, you can work out a payment plan, add a line, or modify your insurance policy.
If you genuinely like your landline or cell phone service, let the representative know. If your current plan is no longer feasible, tell the representative that you are considering an alternate option. They might be able to work out a plan for you, especially if you are a long-time customer.
You can try to negotiate your internet bill in a manner similar to your phone bill. Many internet providers currently offer modified plans or reduced rates. You may be eligible for these plans if you are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19. Providers may also help if you have children at home who need an internet connection for remote schooling.
When you call the representative, present alternate offers and prices closer to your desired package. There may also be other companies in your area that offer competitive packages, rates, or promotions for people affected by COVID-19.
Similar to your phone and internet bills, you can try reducing your cable bill by leveraging competitive offers in your area. Your needs are constantly changing, so it’s common for people to negotiate their cable bills. Today, many companies and online streaming services provide access to your favorite TV shows and movies. If your current cable provider won’t negotiate, you can likely find another provider with a lower rate and similar offerings.
Ask about cheaper options, or consider bundles that typically include cable, phone, and even internet. By combining two or more expenses into one monthly payment, bundling can help you by saving money, time, and stress.
5. Student Loans
Student loan payments are tough to get around. However, you may be able to negotiate a settlement if your loans are near default. The Board of Education may also accommodate if you don’t have the financial means to pay off your debt.
Settlements are issued sparingly, so you should not bank on one. For a more stable solution, consider lowering your monthly payment or doing a balance transfer to reduce interest.
If you’re looking to reduce your monthly payment, try modifying your payment plan directly from your student portal. If necessary, contact your provider via phone, email, or chat. Many student loan providers provide opportunities to reduce the amount based on your income. If you are experiencing financial hardship, you may also be able to defer payments for several months.
6. Medical Bills
If you have outstanding medical debt, there are several potential ways to reduce the cost. First, you should check your medical bills for errors. Even medical billing departments make mistakes.
If you are insured or partially insured, confirm that all bills covered by your insurance are billed to your insurance provider. Previous medical expenses can also be covered if you’ve recently become a recipient of state-provided insurance; contact the state health department to inquire about this process.
You may be able to negotiate a medical bill if you are able to pay it in full. There are also bill negotiation services that can help facilitate this process for you.
Negotiating with your bank, credit card issuer, or biller can be awkward and intimidating. With a little research and a lot of practice, you’ll build confidence. You may be surprised at how much reducing waste can improve your finances. Remember to be polite, yet persistent. If you hear “no”, don’t get discouraged. It’s important that you keep trying, whether you continue negotiating the same bill or move on to the next.