With unemployment at record highs and job security often unstable, you might find yourself strapped for cash. One potential solution is to lower your monthly bills. We’re not just talking about cancelling services either. It is actually possible to negotiate with some companies for lower rates. While it won’t be easy, it’s possible to negotiate many of your bills — everything from your internet and cell phone to utilities or credit cards. Sometimes all you have to do is ask in the right way. Here are some tips for how to go about renegotiating your bills. You’ll probably save some valuable money in the process.
Do Some Research
If you know what prices are like for competing services, you will be in a better position to negotiate. Don’t take a sales rep at face value if they tell you that you’re already getting the absolute lowest rate. If you find a competitor’s offer that charges less for the same service or product, be sure to say so. It doesn’t matter if it’s only an introductory offer. Arming yourself with this kind of research will strengthen your hand in negotiations. As an added bonus, you’ll also gain a better understanding of your available options and the standard market rates. And knowledge is power.
Call At The Right Time
Unless you’re going into a bank to meet with someone in-person, almost all negotiations concerning lowering your bills will take place over the telephone. That makes it important to call at the right time. And by that, we mean during regular business hours — between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Phoning in the evening or on the weekend is not likely to be successful. Call centers tend to be minimally staffed outside of business hours. You are unlikely to reach anyone in a real position to truly help you. Calling during regular business hours will allow you to reach representatives who are not as overwhelmed. Hopefully, you’ll also spend less time on hold too.
Be Friendly But Firm (And Skeptical)
Always be friendly when trying to renegotiate your payments. Screaming or throwing a fit is not likely to get you the results you desire. Remember that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. That said, you should also be firm when discussing lower fees and charges. It’s possible to be both friendly and firm, after all.
You should also bring a healthy dose of skepticism to any negotiations aimed at lowering your bills. Never believe a sales rep who says there’s nothing better they can do. Don’t hesitate to call a second time and speak to someone else. They might tell you something different. Remember that persistence pays off.
Offer More Than You Want And Then Back Off
This is a classic negotiating tactic. Start out by asking for more than you really want and then back off. It will appear that you are acquiescing. If you ask for a bigger discount than you reasonably expect, you might be able to settle on an amount that still leaves you happy. This can be an effective tactic, provided you’re speaking with someone who is in a position of authority. Then you can legitimately negotiate with them, and hopefully make them feel like they aren’t completely caving to your original demand.
Threaten To Cancel Your Service
Now to bring out the big guns. The best leverage you have in any negotiation is to threaten to cancel your service if you can’t get a lower rate. Saying you want to cancel your service will almost immediately take you to the retention or loyalty department. Those are the best people to negotiate with, as their job is to retain existing customers by appeasing them. Retention and loyalty departments often have access to some of the best discounts available from their respective companies.
If you speak to somebody in customer service, billing, or technical support, you probably won’t have much success. They have limited access to any discounts and promotions. Most of those discounts and promotions are held by the retention and loyalty departments. By going through the process of canceling, you are requiring the company to entice you to stay.
One important note, though. Don’t threaten to cancel in a big show of aggression, and then back down if they call your bluff. They’ll make a note of your customer file and you’ll probably never have your threats to leave taken seriously again. Which directly leads us to the next point.
Have A Backup Plan
Sometimes, you just can’t wring blood from a stone. There will be moments when you’re unsuccessful in trying to negotiate a better price – whether it’s your credit card interest rate or your cable and internet fees. Maybe you’re already on the lowest tier of service. Or maybe you’re locked into your current rate for a set period of time. This is often the case for insurance and cell phone plans.
When you run into this wall, be sure to have a backup plan. Maybe you can shop around with competing services, and then follow through with your threat to cancel. (Make sure there’s no early termination fee, if it’s a contract service.) Maybe you can still negotiate for better service, but at the same price tier. That won’t trim your budget at all, but it’s still a small win. Regardless of what your approach is, it’s important to have a back up plan. If you hit a constant stream of dead ends, don’t just slink away with your tail between your legs.
Know When To Stop
Endless negotiations are not fun. (Unless you’re a bit of a sadist.) It’s always advisable to reach a negotiated agreement quickly. So it’s important to know when to stop negotiating if you’re not getting anywhere. Or to accept a win if you get a desired outcome. Don’t push your luck too far. Before you get on the phone, ask yourself, “What’s the minimum I’m willing to accept and still be happy?”
Once you settle on a figure, you can skip a lot of frustration and confusion. You’ll quickly know if you’re never going to get there. If you’re not, you can move to your backup plan. Or you’ll know when you’re close enough to what you want that you can call it a deal and move on. Either way, be prepared to stop negotiating at some point.
The Bottom Line
The best deals go to people who ask for them. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And the more you negotiate, the better you will become at it. If you feel like you’re not skilled at haggling, you’re not alone. But remember that you won’t get anything if you don’t ask. The worse thing they can say is “No.” And then you’re still no worse off than before you picked up the phone.
Talking to a representative on the phone (or even chatting online) is one of the best opportunities to start practicing and improving your negotiation skills. Plus it could potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars over the long-term. Isn’t that savings worth the effort? So go ahead and negotiate your credit card interest rate, your TV and internet packages, your cell phone plan, your new car price, or the price of that new fridge. There’s no shame in asking!