7 Tips to reduce your bills

Want to reduce your bills? Follow these easy tips to be prepared before the negotiation begins.

You can reduce your monthly bills but before you call the bill collector, you need to be prepared. Follow these steps to make sure you've got everything covered.

Check out the competition. Prepare for negotiations by researching online and calling local service providers. Having the details of a lower rate at your fingertips gives you more leverage when you ask for a price break.Comparison sites, like lowermybills.com and billshrink.com (which analyzes your past usage to find the best option), can save you time by doing most of the legwork.

Consider the timing. If you are locked into a service contract, the best time to negotiate is a couple of weeks before it expires, when the company is most eager to keep your business. If you’re in the middle of the contract, you don’t have the same leverage, and if you manage a reduction, most companies will try to get you to restart the clock on your contract. Avoid that if possible. You can always downgrade to a simpler plan to save money for the duration of your contract.

Be prepared. Have a copy of your latest bill on hand (so you can refer to your customer ID number and payment history) as well as any competitor advertisements (with pricing).

Know your bottom line. Make sure you’re willing to leave the company before you issue an ultimatum. If you’re just fishing for a better rate, bluffing doesn’t always work. Get ready for your conversation by making a list of the services you receive, how much they cost and which ones you can’t live without. Then decide what you are willing to walk away from, whether it’s the entire service or just one feature.

Schedule it. Working your way through a maze of transfers and wait times could take more than an hour, so call when you’re free of distractions. You don’t want to start over because you lost cell service in the car or you can’t hear over a barking dog.

Retain records. Document the time of each call and the name and customer number of people you speak to. Verbal agreements on the phone can vanish, so you might need to reference the call to prove your case. For the same reason, always ask for a written confirmation of any promised offer.

Try and try again. Don’t be dismayed if you don’t receive a discount offer right away. You might have better luck at a different time of day or later in the week with another representative.