Your most powerful money-saving tool isn't a coupon-searching browser extension or the willpower it takes to say no to a Pumpkin Spice Latte. It's your phone. Seriously.
When you look—big picture—at where most of your money goes every month, you'll likely see some big chunks of change going to rent, first and foremost (and if you need tips about haggling that down, look right here), then in some order thereafter, various payments to debt lenders and service providers. Added together, those companies siphon away a huge percent of your paycheck. And the thing is, you have the power to shrink those payments with just your words and a little bit of charisma and confidence.
That's right: If you want to get your budget in check and save some serious dough—starting tomorrow, without changing anything about your day to day—you can do it by placing a few phone calls to customer service lines. You can take this advice and apply it to any account where part of your bill can be negotiated—like cable and internet charges, credit card interest rates and cell phone bills.
If it's not readily apparent, this isn't a super simple task, and you'll need to repeat the process for each payment where you'd like to aim your schmoozy shrink ray. But it's totally worth it. I promise.
Step 1: Know your bill like the back of your hand, and pull some comps.
Step one starts before you even pick up the phone, and it's all about getting educated. Go online and log in to your payment portal to grab the big kahuna bill or statement that you almost never look at—the lengthy document that details the full scope of what you pay for and how much. Knowing the ins and outs of your account will get you the best outcome, as the person you're negotiating with can't give you the runaround.
Once you know exactly what you pay for, head to a few competitors sites (or call their customer service folks) to jot down their rates for the same service. Be prepared to quote these prices and deals when you get on the phone with your provider.
Step 2: Call the customer service line to "cancel."
Your ultimate goal here is to connect with a person who is in a position to give you the very best deal available, and that's almost always the customer retention department—it's their job to retain customers, so they have more tools and cheaper rates than anyone else at the call center. Call the company's customer service line and explain that you're calling to close your account—just say "I want to cancel my service" or "I want to transfer my balance to another company and close this card."
Step 3: Play nice, then make your move.
Here's something to keep in mind the entire time you're on the phone: Call center employees are regular people, just like you, trying to earn a paycheck—yet they deal with shouty jerks nearly all day, every day. If you're the umpteenth person to give them an attitude that
day hour, they're far less likely to accommodate your negotiating (remember: you're essentially asking them for money). So be nice. A breath of fresh air. Use their name and start a conversation with them the same way you would with a kind face at a coffee shop. "Hi Victor! My grandpa's name was Victor!"
Once you've exchanged pleasantries, it's time to get down to business. "You know, Victor, I love my cable service, but I'm just having a really tough time making ends meet with this bill in my budget. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to cancel my cable. I hope you understand where I'm coming from..."
Step 4: Quote your other deals.
The person you're on the phone with might have already jumped in to offer a deal after you first muttered the word "cancel," but if you're not getting exactly what you want from at this point, start quoting those other deals you found. "Well, you see, Victor, I got this mailer the other day from a dish company—$99 for two years! I hate to leave you guys, but I can't overlook that deal, it would save me, like, $50 each month. That's huge!"
Step 5: Get locked down.
At this point, they'll know exactly what you're doing, and he'll offer you some sort of retention deal. You can keep the act up until you get what you think is a reasonable deal, then—and this is critical—lock that up for as long as you can. You might be able to get them to give you that retention rate for 6 months, 12 months or even up to 30 months (it's happened!). Say, "How long can you lock that rate in for me, Victor? I don't want to have to call you again in a few months." (However long of a lock you can get, don't forget to set a calendar reminder for two weeks before your negotiated rate expires, so you can call back and do it all again.)
You see, the secret to lower bills is really just to be educated, pleasant and ready to chat. And one final thing: if you aren't satisfied with the deals Victor is giving you, hang up and call back—somebody else will bite the bait and hook you up.