Money·4 min read

How to Negotiate Bills and Save More

Negotiate Bills
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Dec 9, 2021

Starting with the bad news: Inflation is making a lot of things more expensive — including regular expenses you can’t cut from your budget. (Looking at you, rent.) The good news: Not all price tags are written in Sharpie. Time to talk some down.

Are you going to teach me how to negotiate bills?

Yep. First, know that a good negotiator should be confident, polite, and informed. So step one: Don’t be afraid to ask. But do it nicely so that customer service reps (who talk to a lot of rude people every day) are more likely to help you get what you want. Pro tip: do your homework first to understand the market and what different price points mean. Downgrading to a cheaper service isn’t always worth the savings if it means losing out on features you actually want and use.

Gimme more on how to lower my bills.

You can probably negotiate more than you think. Here's how to negotiate bills for...

Rent

If you've been a great tenant, remind your landlord. Because having to replace you could cost them more than it's worth to knock some off your monthly payment. Consider offering to sign a longer lease or paying a few months of rent upfront if you can afford it. If they won’t budge on price, try for another concession, like a smaller security deposit, free parking, or upgrades like new appliances.

Phone and cable

Call customer service and first ask about any discounts or cheaper packages. Especially if your current plan includes things you don’t need, like unwatched channels or extra data because you're always on WiFi. If the price still isn’t right, check your notes and see if your current provider can beat or match any lower competitor prices you found while comparison-shopping. Ask for a supervisor if the rep isn’t able to lower your bill any further.

Medical bills

If you’re planning a procedure or exam, try to schedule with providers who are in-network with your insurance. If you already have the bill, it's not too late to negotiate. Ask your doc office or the hospital to send you an itemized bill and scan it for mistakes, like duplicate charges or extra services you didn't get. If you find an error, contact the billing office to dispute it. Then if you can’t afford the correct charges, ask about ways to minimize your responsibility. (Billing departments are used to hearing patients say 'lower my bills' and are often willing to play ball.) Ask about financial aid or medical forgiveness options, or work out a payment plan, which typically won’t accrue interest.

Credit cards

Calling your card issuer and asking for a lower interest rate can help you pay off that debt faster. If you recently improved your credit score and/or routinely make on-time payments, let them know you're a customer worth keeping. Psst...once your credit card is paid off, you may not want to close the account. That can hurt your credit score by causing your credit-utilization ratio to increase and shortening the average age of your accounts. But you can stop using the card, especially if you have one with better terms.

Is there an easier way to lower my bills? 

Bill negotiation services like BillCutterz and Trim can take care of the tough parts for you (bye, unending hold times) — for a fee. If they can strike a better deal for you, it could be worth it. If they don't, you won’t get charged. Another way: turning on autopay could lower your bill if it gets you a discount or helps you avoid late fees. But be careful — automatic payments could cost you penalties if you have insufficient funds. 

theSkimm

Sometimes the best way to save is to ask for it. Especially with prices rising — and expected to keep going up for a while — it may be time to figure out how to negotiate. Start by shopping around and gathering evidence to make your case. Then stay cool, calm, and collected. You might be surprised what you can accomplish. 


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