Saving

Negotiating These 5 Bills Can Save Hundreds

Two key concepts rule all others when it comes to saving money: Everything is negotiable, and competition is your biggest ally. Here’s how to use both truths to your advantage when shaving money off your biggest monthly bills.

1. Pay TV

As more of us cut the cable cord in favor of Internet-based alternatives, traditional providers are feeling the pressure—and often willing to make a deal.

If you haven’t already, your first step is to look into those services, including Netflix, Hulu, SlingTV and DirecTV Now. You might discover they offer enough options, in which case your new bill is likely south of $50. Check with your Internet provider before switching, though. If your home service has a strict data cap, do some math to ensure you’re not erasing savings with overage fees.

If these options don’t suffice, however, research a couple competitor deals and call up your provider. See if they’ll match them. If you’re cool with a streaming service and cable combo, ask about “skinny” bundles, which are deeply discounted basic packages.

2. Cell Phone

These days, getting a better smartphone deal means getting a better data deal. At T-Mobile, Sprint and AT&T, unlimited plans are back. At Verizon, you select a tier: 2GB, 4GB and so on. To make an intelligent choice here, carefully examine your previous bills to decide whether you could downgrade to a cheaper level.

The real savings, however, come if you’re willing to drop the big four carriers and sign up with lesser-known providers like Walmart’s Straight Talk, which can cut your bill in half.

3. Gym Membership

If New Year’s resolutions are your thing, you might want to join a gym soon. (Or else reacquaint with the one you already pay for.) Gyms are notorious for their complicated terms and contracts, but there’s still plenty of negotiating room.

Initiation or sign-up fees are often used to balance out promotional discounts, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for a break there, too. Some experts say that if you agree to join with a friend, you’re even more likely to get these fees waived. You can also look for deals online. (Costco’s deals list is a great source, even for non-members.) Many clubs have a policy against letting mid-contract members renew for less money, but some will do it anyway.

And if you ever feel like you’ve succumbed to high-pressure tactics (hey, it happens to us all), check with the attorney general’s office. Many states have “cooling off periods” or “right of rescission” provisions, which often give you 72 hours to cancel.

4. Credit Card Rates

A March 2016 CreditCards.com survey found that a whopping 78 percent of Americans who’ve asked for a lower interest rate have succeeded. Yet nearly four out of five of us haven’t asked. So do it now before rates on variable-APR cards get higher.

Before you pick up the phone, research other card deals or balance-transfer offers. The bank doesn’t want to lose your business, so implying you’ll move your balance increases your odds of a rate reduction.

5. Auto Loans

Did you know you could refinance your auto loan, too? There’s actually pretty hot competition among banks for these loans, so the fees can be trivial. If you have an extra long loan—73-84 months are very popular now—or your credit’s improved since you borrowed the money, consider this. While interest rates for subprime loans (if your score is 600 or less) can top 10 percent, those with better scores can find rates as low as 2 percent.

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