Posted: April 18, 2013

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It’s hard to even organize all my thoughts on saving money!  Here’s a roundup of the previous posts done in this series:

Reducing Revolving Monthly Bills:

This time I want to talk about revolving monthly bills.  How can we lower them?  Some of them are just a fixed amount and there’s nothing we can do about it, right?  Wrong.

If you are at your wits end and if you think you have lowered or eliminated all the bills you can at the time then there’s another thing you can try. Make a list of your bills and start calling the companies one by one.

Let’s start with companies like cable, phone, newspaper or anything that can be considered an extra, but you really want to cut down how much you pay.  We will talk about fixed payments (like house and cars) later in the article.

If you have a service that you pay for monthly that you love, but notice they are always running promotions for “new customers only,” don’t you feel jipped?  For instance, I have been getting my local newspaper for 9 years now.  I see them running promotions for “new customers only.”  They are selling the newspaper to new customers for a fraction of the cost I’m paying.  Now is that fair?  I mean I’ve been with them LOYALLY and have always paid my bills.  Why don’t I get any great offers?  Even when you call and inquire they say, “I’m sorry, this is for new customers only.”  Has this happened to you?  Well don’t give up if it does.

Billing Department:

You can approach it two ways.  The first way is what I try first.  I call the billing department.  I tell them that the newspaper has become an added expense and I have to cut my bills.  I ask them nicely, “Can you offer me any specials to help me out?”  Every time they are very nice and I get some great offer to help cut my bills.  It’s similar to the new customer offer and it’s short term, but they want to keep my business so they do it.

Customer Retention:

If that doesn’t work the second way is to call and ask for the Customer Rentention.  You will be on with a regular customer service agent who is there to try to make you happy, but don’t even spend the time explaining the problem because you will be put on hold hold, be transferred, then hold again and end up spending a whole lot of “frustrating” time for nothing.  Just ask for customer rentention right away.  These are the people who an “actually” do something to help you.  Hence the name “Retention.”  They want to retain your business.  Once you have customer retention on the phone you can tell them that you have  been a loyal customer who pays your bills and you would like to be rewarded for this (just as a “new” customer.)  This is the nitty gritty where you can get them to lower your bill. It may be only for a few months, but it will help.

Almost all companies will have a customer retention departments.  However, something very important to note.  If you get on the phone with them you have to be ready to cancel the service if they don’t give you what you want.  You can’t call and say, “well your service is too expensive – what can you do to lower my cost?”  If they will do nothing for you, then be prepared to walk away.  Besides in almost any business you will have other options to choose.  If it’s the cable company and you only have one in town you are still not out of options.  Read my first article on cutting TV and Cell phones costs.

Been Scourned?

This doesn’t have as much to do with monthly bills, but what if a company really rips you off?  For example, one time I paid for a skirt online, and it never arrived at my house.  I called the company and they said there was nothing they could do about it, well I was quite upset.  Who wants to pay for an item they never received?  One post to their facebook page, and they suddenly changed their mind. If all else fails then use social media to your advantage.  This doesn’t always work, but companies that are big into their social media pages pay attention.  I would only recommend doing this as a last resort and only after you have been kind to the company and tried your best in a positive way, but still they aren’t budging.

Find their social pages like Facebook and Twitter.  There is usually a place on these pages where you can leave comments.  I have heard of people leaving a comment about how high their bill is and that they can not get the company to help them.  Within a few days these people sometimes are contacted and you’ll be surprised at how helpful they can be at that point.  They don’t want negative publicity and that is what social networks are to them – publicity.  Word of mouth goes a long way and if your mouth isn’t saying what they want to hear they usually want to resolve the problem.  I can’t say this works for everyone, but I have heard of it helping before.

Insurance: Shop Around!

Let’s talk about insurance for a moment.  This is probably car or home/renter’s insurance.  Don’t you hate when you get a new statement and the premiums have gone up?  Well it pays to shop around at this point.  You may really like the company, but you may also find out they are charging you 25 – 50% more than other reputable companies.  It doesn’t hurt to check it out.  Don’t forget to read my article about cutting costs on deductibles, too.

Fixed Bills:

Now we will talk about monthly bills that are usually a fixed amount. You house or car you bought was a fixed amount and the bank is unlikely to say, “Sure Helper Jen we’ll take 5,000 off the cost for you!”  They don’t do that.  But they do control the amount you pay monthly regarding interest.

First, see if you can get a lower rate on your car.  Some banks (especially home town credit unions) will offer a lower rate by a percentage point on new loans.  Rates have gone down and now they can do that.  That stinks since you got your loan long enough ago that the rates were higher.  Sometimes IF YOU JUST ASK they will drop your rate for you.  No costs involved.  “Thanks for asking Helper Jen.  I do see our rates are 2% lower now than when you got your loan. Let’s take your rate down a percentage.”  It isn’t as smooth as that.  There is some negotiating involved, but putting on a smile and talking nice will go a long way.  Getting frustrated and raising your voice doesn’t help a lot in these situations.  Of course not all banks will do this, but again it doesn’t hurt to ask.

If that doesn’t work on the car ask if you can skip a payment?  They do sometimes do that. You will would still owe that payment, but it would go on the end of your loan.  Caution:  Only do this in extreme circumstances.  This will add extra interest expenses that you will eventually pay at the end of your loan.

Now mortgages are not that easy. Usually the only way they will drop your interest is to refinance which has a lot of high closing costs involved.  If you are thinking of refinancing see if your bank has STREAMLINE loans.  They are less cost to you.  Also, I cannot stress enough to SHOP AROUND.  You may be loyal to the company, but you also may be paying way too much for their services.  Keep in mind with the market the way it is you may have to pay new costs if you refinance.  They have new laws and this means new charges.  Get an itemized statement of charges before deciding.  I don’t want to go into too much detail about refinancing because I am not an expert. Just talk to someone you trust who has had experience with refinancing.Also, sometimes with mortgages you can ask if you can skip a few months and pay just interest.  These are interest only payments and really should only be considered in dire circumstances.  This means you are only paying toward the interest on your loan and your loan is not reduced at all.  In the end these end up having more costs to pay off, but it may be your only option if you are stuck.  Keep in mind, not all lenders will consider this.  Don’t get mad if they say no.  They will probably only consider these if you can prove a hardship (like loss of job, etc.).

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  • Roxana

    I know this may be late for some and others may not be able to do this. But try paying all or as many of your bills that you can a year in advance. For example, my husband and I have annihilated our credit card debt. But because our income is so low, we had to have our student loans deferred. That left our utilities, mortgage and insurances. Our health insurance comes out automatically on my husband’s check. Car insurance goes down by almost $30/month when paid with tax return money. We have our Dish bill which is at $20/month when paid for a year. Our home owner’s is in escrow as well as our taxes in our mortgage which leaves us with utilities. 3 bills a month, gas and groceries. That gives us enough to save our extra money every month for rainy days and higher utilities than we may have expected. One day, we hope to have saved enough that when we combine our tax returns with our savings (not retirement), we can kill those student loans!

  • waynesgirl723

    Paying car insurance in full when it’s due (usually every 6 months) amounts to quite a savings annually. Get your utilities set up on level pay . . . or, better yet, set up your own level pay. For example, we pay a set amount toward our water bill each month. It’s always much more than is due, especially during the winter months. But, when summer comes and we water the lawn, we don’t have to worry about how to come up with the money for a huge water bill in June, July, or August. Same goes for gas, electric, etc. That way you always know the amount of your monthly outgo. Keeps things balanced.

    Right now, interest rates are quite low for housing and autos. Try the steps Jen pointed out for refinancing to see if it will work for you. You might be surprised.

    And, most important, call and ASK about new customer deals or other options that might reduce your monthly charges. All they can do is say no. Jen’s advice is spot-on!

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