6 Household Bills You Didn’t Know You Could Negotiate
Follow these tips and you could save hundreds of dollars on your everyday expenses each year.
Consumers are used to haggling on the price when buying a car and comparison shopping online for the best price on that new laptop. But when it comes to everyday expenses, the price is the price, right?
Not necessarily. According to money-saving experts like Andrea Woroch, lots of household bills have wiggle room. But creditors will almost never offer a discount on their own. “Ask. It’s always worth finding out,” says Woroch, who notes that customers stand to save 10 to 20 percent when they negotiate.
Before you begin cutting deals, be sure to do your homework. That means reviewing your bills first so you know how much you’re currently being charged for a product or service, and researching what promotional prices the company (and its competitors) are offering customers.
Next, Woroch advises, have in mind a price you feel comfortable with before you call. “Any time you negotiate, you want to come into the transaction with power,” Woroch says. Then, start negotiating one, several or all of the following types of bills.
Cable and Satellite Media
Bills for cable and dish-based television have a sneaky way of increasing over time, especially if you signed up for a promotional package and let the introductory price expire. The same holds true for satellite radio. But take heart: Usually, all it takes is a simple phone call to get the price back down again.
“This is something people can do on an annual basis,” says Woroch, noting she has personally been able to save $50 a month. “Call and explain that the price is not satisfactory, and you want to get the price back down without changing your service. Don’t let them trick you into getting more channels for the same price if that’s not what you want.”
If they tell you there’s nothing they can do, Woroch suggests asking about discounts for autopay or paperless billing, which can amount to about $5 per month. “If you’re not getting anywhere, ask to speak with a supervisor or call back later and speak with a different representative, who may have more experience or willingness to work with you,” she says.
If your provider offers it, you may also be able to land a better deal by bundling cable and Internet. Or you may do better by switching to one of these cable TV alternatives to save money.
Subscriptions to streaming media services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime and more can add up. “Think about what you’re really using and what has the best programming for you,” Woroch advises.
You may discover you haven’t watched one or more services since your favorite show ended six months ago. Often you can maximize your savings by researching which platforms offer deals on other streaming services.
For example, Woroch says, “Once you pay the flat price for Hulu, they let you do add-ons with Showtime, HBO GO, etc., and the price is lower than if you were to subscribe to them directly.” Cell phone providers sometimes offer free or discounted access to streaming services as well.
Woroch says some of the best deals to be found on streaming services happen on Black Friday. If you’re afraid you’re not eligible for the deals because you’re an existing customer, Woroch suggests calling. “They really value their loyal customers,” she says. “Leverage that.”
Home Maintenance and Repairs
Woroch says most people don’t realize how many different home services can be negotiated. But she says haggling is fair game for lawn services, pest control, cleaning crews, bottled water delivery, alarm and home security systems, even HVAC and appliance repairs.
“Sometimes you can purchase a part and negotiate for them to install it at a lower price,” she says. Many of the companies that provide these kinds of services are small businesses with more wiggle room in their pricing.
You can also negotiate the cost of solar power, Woroch says, and sometimes even electricity and gas if you live in one of the approximately two dozen states that permit consumers to choose their provider.
Nearly half of all Americans have some kind of outstanding medical debt, with most of those people owing between $1,000 and $5,000. Yet only about one-third ever try negotiating those amounts.
First, make sure the bill is accurate; a 2016 study found eight in ten medical bills include some kind of error. Even if the amount is correct, you can often get it reduced with a call to the billing department of your hospital or medical provider.
“Ask them what kind of discounts — not payment plans — they can offer if you pay in full right now,” Woroch recommends. If you don’t get satisfaction the first time, keep trying. The system is meant to encourage people to give up, Woroch says.
If you’re scheduling an elective medical or dental procedure, try negotiating in advance. “Find out if they offer a discount if you pay upfront in cash,” Woroch suggests. Because so many people can’t pay their medical bills, a cash deal is often appealing to providers.
And if you’re budgeting for something like braces for multiple kids, she says it’s “definitely worth asking” about volume discounts.
The best way to score a discount on a product you’re considering purchasing online is to open up a live chat. Then tell the agent what product you’re interested in and ask if they have any discounts.
“They may have a new customer discount, or they may know about a code you couldn’t find, or they may be able to offer free shipping,” Woroch says. By negotiating with The Home Depot when buying two big appliances, she says she saved 10 percent on the total purchase and snagged free delivery.
It’s always helpful, Woroch adds, if you know what kinds of deals other retailers are offering. You can even send a link in the live chat window and see if they can adjust their price.
Consumers can expect to save up to 15 percent by renegotiating auto and home insurance plans, Woroch says. Before you call your agent, shop around and see if you can get the same coverage for a better rate.
“You may need to change up some of your options,” Woroch says, like raising your deductible for a lower premium. But if you already have money in savings that would cover most types of damages, it could be a smart move. In case wading through premiums, deductibles, copays and other aspects of buying insurance gives you headaches, here’s a primer on what insurance you need.
You could also negotiate for better terms if you’ve recently installed a new security system in your home or have been driving your car a lot less due to the pandemic. You may also be able to get a better deal if you pay for a full year upfront.
Woroch doesn’t recommend making empty threats as a negotiating move. But in most cases, she says, you should be ready to switch to a different company if the one you’re working with won’t match a competitor’s price.
And if you really hate making these kinds of phone calls, or don’t have the time, third-party services like True Bill and Bill Cutterz will do the work for you, though they take a commission off the amount you save. They can be helpful, Woroch says, when you feel like you’ve done your best and aren’t getting anywhere. Since they’re pros, she says, “They may have some other tricks up their sleeves.”