A tale of two bills: Finding savings in your monthly expenses

Recently I was looking through my budget looking for things I could cut to add a little bit more margin. There were two things I identified.

Tale 1: Our daily newspaper delivery

We get one of the local newspapers delivered to our home each day. When I first signed up for the service a few years Finding savings in your monthly expensesago it was around $18 a month. At that price it was worth it to me for the convenience plus we would probably get a good chunk of that back in coupons we cut from the inserts in the Sunday paper. Over the years though the price continued to increase and the last few months the cost has been $35+ per month. Combine that with the busyness of life and the fact that sometimes I am skimming the paper 4 days later because I never had a chance to get to it and I just decided to cancel the subscription. I could still stop at a convenience store and pick up a copy of the Sunday paper for the coupons, but the daily delivery just wasn’t worth $35.

So I called to cancel my subscription. I was going to say at $18 a month it was worth it but not anymore, but I decided to just say I wanted to cancel my subscription because I just didn’t get enough value for the cost. So the first thing the lady I talked to said was what if I were to give it to you for $18 a month. I thought for a minute, glad that I hadn’t started the conversation out with quoting a price. I decided that even at $18 a month it still wasn’t worth it to me. So I declined again and asked for my subscription to be canceled. Now she came back with what if I offered it to you for $10 a month for the next year. Ok. Now she was talking. If I were to buy just the Sunday papers for the coupons it would cost me almost that much.

So the end result is I am now getting the same paper service I was getting before but saving more than $25 a month. That’s a $300 savings over the next year for the cost of a 10 minute phone call. Score!!

Tale 2: DirecTV

My second target was my DirecTV subscription. I have been a subscriber of DirecTV for many years. It always annoys me a little that they offer such great deals for their new customers but their long-term customers aren’t eligible for those deals.

Three or four years ago I called with the threat of switching to cable. While I wasn’t able to get them talked down to the same deal the cable company was offering I did get it significantly discounted.

This time I called and said that while I didn’t really want to change I asked what they could do for me. After some discussion the best I could get was $15 off my monthly bill. So I decided to take a different approach. I know they frequently will off things like three months of HBO free but i really have little interest in that. I do like to watch baseball though so I decided to see if I could get a complimentary subscription to the MLB Extra Innings package. After some talking she agreed to talk to her manager. I waited patiently and the end result was while I did not get it for free I did get if for about 75% off the regular price.

So the long and the short of my 30 minute call to DirecTV was about $300 in savings over the next year plus access to the MLB package.

That’s about $600 in savings for an hour’s worth of effort and I am getting the same services plus the addition of the baseball package. Not too bad.

The point here is you can save on your regular monthly bills. Here is how.

Check your monthly spending

Look at your monthly expenses and find targets to cut. Do you have services you rarely use? Magazines you never read? Utility costs that seem high? Extra features you pay for that you rarely use? All of these are targets for cost savings.

Be honest

Never misrepresent your situation. If there are low-income discounts that you wouldn’t qualify for, don’t try to hide income to make it seem like you would be a candidate. Your integrity is more important than saving a few dollars.

Never be rude or demanding

Be pleasant with the person you are speaking to. They are simply doing their job. Never try to bully or brow beat them into giving you something. Be firm but never demanding. As always treat others like you would want to be treated.

Be willing to walk away

This is a key. I think this is why I was not able to get nearly as much discount from DirecTV this time as I was last time. When I tried a few years ago I was fully willing to switch to cable. This time I really wasn’t planning to switch and I think the lady I was talking to knew it. This is also why I was able to get such a discount on the paper. I really didn’t care. I was fully willing to walk away and cancel my service. I wasn’t rude to the lady I spoke to but I made it very clear I fully intended to cancel my subscription.

That’s not good enough

Another tactic that can often work is to simply suggest that’s not good enough when they make an offer and then simply be quiet and wait. I had no idea that I could actually get the newspaper for $10 a month. I actually thought the $18 a month offer was pretty good. But when I said $18 a month was not good enough I discovered that there was a much better offer to be had.

Bargain for something else

If you can’t get the discount you want, see if you can bargain for something else. This is what I did with the MLB package. You might be able to get some additional services or features added to your account for no additional cost.

Ask!

The bottom line is you never know until you ask. I know some people don’t feel comfortable negotiating myself included. Negotiating often feels like conflict, and I don’t really enjoy conflict. But it doesn’t have to be.

Both the calls I made were very pleasant. You simply don’t know what you may be offered until you ask. Perhaps the answer is nothing. If so you then have a choice. Cancel the service or accept there are no discounts to be had. But understand that is the worst case scenario. If that happens you are no worse off than had you not called in the first place. And just like when I called my local newspaper, you might be surprised at what you can save!

Your challenge for this week. Find at least one service that you pay for each week and make a call to see what you can save.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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