My spouse and I live a comfortable life. We have a nice home and the things that make life comfortable. We don’t play “keep up with the Joneses” and don’t give a rat’s patootee if we do not lease the latest yuppie-mobile or have the most recent smartphone (or even a smartphone at all.) We seldom go out to eat, and I pack a lunch each day to bring to work. Sure, we could afford these things, but we’re not interested.
Also, being children of parents who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s means that we grew up in an environment of “waste not, want not” — meaning that we watch what we spend, only spend what we have (that is, no carrying credit card balances), keep a healthy emergency fund, and are generally frugal.
The other day through careful and tedious negotiation, I reduced monthly household expenses by $105. It is hard to do that as expenses and fees for service continue to rise, but it is possible. This is what I did.
1. Home internet
My spouse and I choose to pay for broadband home internet service. I use it to maintain my website, this blog, and a myriad of other things, while my spouse uses it a lot while he is pursuing another bachelor’s degree by taking classes on-line from our state university.
Our home internet service was adequate, but its cost was bugging me. I kept seeing offers for new subscribers for this same service at significantly lower rates than what I was paying. A competitive broadband provider was also aggressively marketing its services in our area.
The agreed period for a rate hold on the internet was coming to a close and my rates were going to go up. I called the provider and they offered me a $10/month “loyal customer” discount, but that was not good enough. I hung up.
I called the competitor and got their best rate for the service plan that would meet our needs. Adequate, not 3000-device-sharing fast. I then called my current provider back and gave them the competitor’s rate. After listening to all the prattle about why my current provider is better (yahda yahda yahda crap), I finally said, “look, my issue is the bottom line. I have no loyalty to megarich companies. Meet your competitor’s rate, or I’m leaving.”
You know what? They did. After a lot more yahda-yahda-yahda “you are comparing apples with oranges” mutterings, and being bumped to a supervisor who tried again to sell higher speed and more services, I stuck to my guns and ended up with a plan that provides both faster speed but at a lower monthly rate, saving us $30/month (including taxes and fees.)
2. Cable Television
So while I was on the hunt to negotiate with service providers, I called the cable TV company. My spouse and I have been annoyed at the ever-increasing monthly rate and being provided channels we will never watch. From my personal perspective, I don’t really care if we even have cable, but my spouse has a different opinion. He wins this one.
After an exceptionally tedious navigation of that company’s automated call director (which is probably designed to be so onerously difficult to frighten customers off), I finally reached a bright and perky “Julia” who, sigh, tried to upsell me when I was asking about how to reduce my monthly costs.
Twenty minutes later — after much more yahda-yahda-yahda “triple play” promotion rejections — I decided to take a lower tier of service than we had been using. So what if I loose 300 channels of useless drivel? So what if I can’t get certain sports or movie channels that we never watch? (One good thing in not being a sports fan). So what if I can’t get live streaming music? The final result was a reduction of $45 in our monthly bill, including taxes and fees.
3. Cell phone
Then finally, it was time to deal with that pesky cell phone. I am required to have one in order to be a road captain of my motorcycle club. I got the basic flip-phone and simplest voice-only, no-data, plan. And two years ago, I fell for “and for only $9.99 more per month, add another line.” At the time, my spouse had ideas that during retirement, he would drive to his mother’s in Pittsburgh and spend weeks at a time visiting, so he wanted to have a cell phone to use if he were going to be on the road and away for a long time.
That didn’t happen. Life changed. My spouse’s chronic infections but the kabash on any plans for travel. He gave up driving. That cell phone sat on its charger, buried in our guest room, forgotten.
So ultimately, he didn’t need a basic cell phone and we could cut it out. I called the wireless provider to ask for that. Again, a bright-and-perky “Megan” was astonished that I didn’t want to upgrade both of our phones to the latest-greatest i-thing-a-ma-bob, and I had to put up with more yahda-yahda-yahda upselling suggestions, but ultimately I persisted. I dropped the spouse’s unused, uneeded extra line and also reduced my cell phone plan to a basic 30-minutes/no text per month plan. This change reduced our cell phone bill by $45/month (including taxes and fees.)
After two hours of being persistent about what I wanted, price comparison shopping, patience with sales drivel, and sticking to my guns, we will now be saving $105/month.
Do I recommend that everyone do this? Well, I know that while my spouse and I do not see any need or desire for a smartphone, I know that most of the rest of the world has drunk the Koolaid and say that they couldn’t live without one. Maybe so.
However, I do recommend seriously looking at what you are paying for and comparing with competitive offers. Unless you work for one of these providers, there is no need for loyalty to megarich companies. Shop around. Compare. Actually leave one provider for another (I’ve done that).
Bottom line is an adage that I learned a long time ago — you don’t “get” unless you ask.
Life is short: celebrate winning negotiations.