If you’re still feeling the pinch from holiday spending, one strategy you can use to lower your expenses is to negotiate to lower your bills or seek out a payment plan. Companies are often willing to work with customers to make payments more manageable. (They’d rather get your money slowly or at a lower interest rate than not get your money at all.)
Pick up the phone today or tomorrow and try it. You’ll likely have success with at least a few companies, which can give you a bit of breathing room in your budget.
1. Call during off-peak times.
Very early in the morning or late afternoon are often the best time. However, both you and the customer service agent may be in a better mood if you call early in the morning, before running into obstacles in your day that could put you in a bad mood.
2. Ask if there is a payment plan.
If you’re dealing with outstanding medical bills, ask if the hospital or doctor’s office has a payment plan. They likely do and will probably be happy to work out payment with you. This is better than putting your medical bills on a credit card because the hospital or doctor’s office likely won’t charge you interest.
3. Mention if you’ve recently had a change in your financial situation.
If you’ve lost income or suddenly have more expenses, mention this. I called our cable service to cut my service all together when we had a sudden, unexpected drop in income. The representative immediately offered to give me the lowest rate that is typically the teaser rate for new customers. She locked that rate in for a year for me.
4. Ask to speak to a supervisor.
If you’re having no luck negotiating with the representative who first takes the call, politely ask to speak to the supervisor. Even if the representative assures you that the supervisor will not be able to offer anything different, still insist on speaking to a supervisor.
5. Call again.
If you don’t make any headway on the first phone call, don’t argue with the representative or supervisor. Instead, end the call graciously and call again later in the day or the next day. This strategy has worked for me several times.
6. Ask if there is anything else the company can do for you.
If you’re negotiating a credit card interest rate, for example, and they offer you a 2% deduction in the APR, thank the representative. Then ask if there’s anything else they can do for you. Using this strategy, I got my credit card interest rate lowered and also thousands of free reward points on my credit card. Those reward points were enough to pay my annual fee and give me a $50 gift card.
Many people are intimidated by negotiating with credit card or other companies, but you shouldn’t be. Many of these companies are willing to work with you if you just ask. In fact, spending a few hours negotiating your rates and payments can be one of the most productive uses of your time when you’re trying to save money.
What other techniques would you suggest?