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When it comes to budgeting, it's important to take time to consider how you plan to use the money that's left over after all your necessities are taken care of. And while it's easy to cut back on things like eating out and traveling, recurring charges such as streaming subscriptions might be harder to reduce.
The good news is that it's possible to negotiate some of your regular bills and subscriptions. Here's how often you should evaluate your bills, how to tell which ones you can negotiate and the process to achieve your goal.
When to Review Your Recurring Bills
It's generally a good idea to evaluate your bills on an annual basis at a minimum. This gives you enough time to determine which bills are necessary and which aren't. In some cases, it can also give service providers time to offer different pricing tiers that can work in your favor.
However, you may also want to do a quick check every few months just to make sure that you're still using all of your subscriptions and memberships. If you find that you're paying for cable or a streaming service just in case you want to use it but you never actually do, it might be a good idea to rethink that recurring cost.
Which Bills Can You Negotiate?
Some bills are truly non-negotiable, but even with these types of bills, you may be able to take steps to save money. Here are some common bills that you may be able to negotiate or alter in order to save money:
- Memberships: You may not be able to negotiate a lower price on memberships. But in some cases, you might be able to save money if you pay annually instead of monthly. For example, Amazon Prime costs $119 per year or $12.99 per month, which comes out to $155.88 annually. If you can afford to pay the annual rate, you'll save $36.88. You could try something similar with your gym membership, association memberships and more.
- Subscription services: As with memberships, it's unlikely that you're going to be able to negotiate a lower monthly fee for Netflix, Spotify and similar services. But many of these services offer different tiers that can work out in your favor. For example, Spotify Premium costs $9.99 per month, but if you have multiple people in your household, you can get a family plan for up to six people for $15.99 monthly, or just a two-account plan for $12.99 per month.
- Utilities: If you live somewhere that gives you the choice between multiple energy providers, you may be able to negotiate your utility bills by shopping around and comparing multiple options. You can also look at your internet, cable, cellphone and other utility bills for opportunities to save money by adding lines, bundling services and more.
- Auto insurance: It's a good idea to shop around and compare auto insurance rates at least once a year to ensure that you're still getting the best deal. This is especially important if your situation has changed since you first bought your policy. For example, if you've started driving less, you've moved or you've purchased a new car, it's possible that you might get a better rate elsewhere. In many states, improving your credit may net you a better rate. If you use Experian's auto insurance comparison tool, you can get quotes from over 40 top providers in minutes to find the best available rate.
- Credit card bills: If you have credit card debt, you could potentially negotiate a lower interest rate. You may also be able to request that the card issuer remove a late or returned payment fee. You might also consider asking to downgrade your card if it has a hefty annual fee and you don't feel your use of the card's benefits justifies it.
If you're not sure which bills are negotiable as you review them, don't be afraid to reach out to your service providers and ask.
How to Negotiate Your Bills
Depending on the type of bill, the negotiation process can vary. With memberships and subscriptions, for instance, there may not be a formal negotiation. Instead, you may simply determine which ones you still use and either cancel or downgrade the services you don't use often enough to justify the full price.
In cases where you have the chance to shop around and compare things like insurance and utilities, start by checking with alternatives and getting price quotes. At that point, you can either use that information to try to negotiate with your current provider, or you can simply move to the new company.
Finally, with credit card bills and some other services, you may need to call and speak to a representative of the company and start the negotiation process that way.
If negotiating bills yourself seems too time-consuming or intimidating, Experian BillFixer™ can negotiate your bills for you. You may get a better deal without spending hours on the phone by allowing the expert negotiators from BillFixer to negotiate on your behalf. When you upload your bills to the portal and give permission to BillFixer to negotiate, you can relax and wait for any available savings to roll in—100% of which you'll keep. BillFixer is a feature available with an Experian premium membership, which costs $24.99 per month.
Make Bill Negotiation a Priority, But Don't Do It Too Often
Reviewing and negotiating your bills can take time, which is why it's a good idea to wait at least a year in most cases. If you evaluate and try to negotiate your bills too often, you may not find many opportunities for saving.
And remember, it might not always be about negotiating a lower bill. Depending on the situation, you may also consider what you're getting out of a service you pay for regularly and whether it's still worth the cost to you.
On top of saving through bill negotiation with options like BillFixer, improving your credit score can help save you money when you apply for a loan or credit card, and it could mean a lower deposit when you sign up for new utility accounts. Signing up for free credit monitoring can help you protect your credit score and set you up for success in achieving your long-term financial goals such as buying a car or a house.