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31 Days

Day 7

Make Some Calls, Save Some Cash

How to lower your bills by calling
How to lower your bills by calling

Most of us have good intentions when it comes to saving money, right? We tell ourselves we'll start saving in the new year, or when we finally get that raise. We vow to start putting cash away for that trip we want to take. But life always has a way of getting that money from you one way or another. So think of it in a different way. If you can't save more, you've got to spend less. And one simple yet effective way to spending less is to pick up the phone.

As the saying goes, money talks. After just a few phone calls, you could be spending significantly less every month. But first you'll have to put up with automated menus and talking to someone at a call center about your bills. We know, making those kind of calls is a drag. Maybe that's why so few people do it. But trust us, if you put in a little time, you can save a lot of cash.

According to Kristin Wong, author of Get Money, you can often negotiate a better price or a discount on nearly all of your bills, just by inquiring over the phone. She says all you have to do is ask, but most people never do because they fear that it'll be a whole big ordeal. "Managing your money is like going to the dentist or standing in line at the DMV," she says. "Nobody wants to do it, but at some point, it's inevitable and you've got take care of things like a grown-up."

The Call: Your Bank

Your Reasoning: “If your bank has charged you a late fee, ATM fee or any other monetary penalty, you should ask to get your money back,” says Wong. Simply explain that there wasn't another ATM available or that you were traveling and couldn't pay the bill, etc. “Politely tell them you've been a good customer and would like to request the fee to be waived.”

The Call: Your Mobile Provider

Your Reasoning: You want to make sure you're on the best possible plan. Are you using too much data? Or do you have way more data than you need? Would you be better off combining plans with your significant other? Once you've worked your way through that, ask the representative to look for any promotions they could offer or possible discounts for groups that you may belong to (for example, AAA, military discounts, professional organizations/unions).

The Call: Your Doctor or Health Insurance

Your Reasoning: Sometimes you're hit with a bill from your doctor or insurance that you weren't expecting. There may be a chance to negotiate a lower cost. Call your doctor's office or insurer and ask if there's anyway they can work with you. Wong was once charged a premium for a few medical tests that she hadn't requested, so she called her insurance and they were able to cover more of the cost as a one-time courtesy.

The Call: Your Internet/Cable Provider

Your Reasoning: These are bills you want to watch. There can often be random charges or price increases that go unnoticed. When you see them, get on the phone. Ask why you're being charged this or if there's a way to lower the cost. Many providers offer discounts every couple months, you simply have to inquire about them.

The Call: Your Credit Card

Your Reasoning: According to's recent rate report, the average card APR is just over 17%. Many creditors actually have departments specifically focused on interest rate reduction, so it could be worth your time to call and ask. Let them know you want to make your payments and pay off this debt, but you need help with the interest rate. It helps if you've been a good customer. Of course, if you frequently pay your credit card bill late, your creditor will be less inclined to grant your request.

The Call: Your Car Insurance

Your Reasoning: Most insurance companies now offer discounts or rewards for clean driving records. They'll send you a small device to observe your driving, and track things like acceleration or braking. Some companies will even give you a small discount just for agreeing to the program. If your insurance company doesn't offer that program but does provide other insurance like renter's insurance, look into bundling plans that might save you money.

Know When to Hold 'Em
and When to Fold 'Em

Not all of these are guaranteed to work, of course. Some companies are more amenable than others. And it's okay to call it a day and try again later. If you threaten to cancel your service and all they offer is the cancellation fee, then you need to decide if you really want to leave or admit defeat.