5 Bills You Can Haggle Before Starting Your Holiday Shopping

A guest article by Jaime Netzer from The Zebra

Bills

Black Friday is around the corner, and you’re no doubt already brainstorming ways to save on the cost of presents for your nearest and dearest this year. But what if we told you there was a simple, time-efficient way you could save big before you ever hopped in the chilly car that post-Thanksgiving morning?

Haggling is an art form, and it’s not one every shopper is particularly comfortable with. In fact, a recent Edmunds.com survey found that a whopping 91 percent of millennials prefer not to haggle over price when shopping for cars. In the same survey, 78 percent of baby boomers also said they hated the haggling process. Now car shopping is particularly stressful, but the truth is, negotiating over price is always a bit of a challenge: We all have emotional relationships with money, and haggling requires asserting yourself in a way we’re just not usually faced with.

But that cliché about the squeaky wheel getting the grease? It’s true. And the one about how you’ll never know if you don’t ask? That one’s true, too.  So we rounded up five bills you have a great shot at haggling down, saving you precious money before you even start your holiday shopping.

Car Insurance: Though it seems like it should, especially when it comes to car insurance, customer loyalty doesn’t always pay. Though it’s true that you can often earn discounts from bundling policies and adding drivers to your policy, it’s also true that staying with the same company year after year often doesn’t save you as much as shopping around and comparing rates from multiple companies would. In fact, a recent J.D. Power survey found that drivers who compare rates and switch companies save on average $300. That’s an iPhone 6 you just earned yourself from one change!

Utility bills: LaTisha Styles, a personal finance blogger and millennial money expert, had some luck about this time two years ago with her gas company: “I was able to get a 45 percent discount just by calling my gas company,” Styles explains. “I started off on a higher price per term and after being a customer for a year, I called them and I was able to get a lower price per term. To do this, I had to go with their six-month plan. This set my gas price for 6 months instead of fluctuating like it normally does. Even a discount of 20-30 percent would help with this bill, especially in the winter. Contact your gas service provider and ask them what specials they have at the moment. You might be surprised at what discounts you are eligible for.”

Cable Bill: We know you’re serious about getting your Scandal and Walking Dead fixes—isn’t it time you got serious about how much you’re paying for your TV habit, too? Start by doing your homework, then call up your current cable provider and explain to them the great special that their biggest competitor just happens to be offering right now. From there, it’s simple: All you have to ask is, “Can you match this deal?” Or, if you’re feeling really brave: “Can you beat this deal?” Then listen carefully, make sure you actually want all everything included in the package described, and if so, pull the trigger.

Bank Charges:  Shannon McClay, a personal finance blogger at Financially Blonde, says bank charges are more negotiable than you’d think. “You should definitely haggle bank charges like ATM fees, account maintenance charges or overdraft fees,” McClay says. “It doesn't matter how big your relationship is with the bank, you are a valuable customer to them and as long as you are using debit card, and keeping a balance, you are making the bank money. The key when you call the bank is to be specific about your request. They will never refund your fees if you just call to complain about them. When you see the fees hit your account, pick up the phone, call the bank and say that you want those specific fees refunded. I have done this personally and advise clients to do it all the time—and they have never been told no.”

Medical Bills: Tiffany Aliche, a blogger at The Budgetnista, also haggled down a bill just before the holidays last year: a medical one. “I am an entrepreneur and, at the time, did not have medical insurance,” Aliche explains. “While trying to prepare for the holidays, I decided to dye my hair at home.  Little did I know, I was one of the .5% of individuals allergic to black hair dye.  As a result, my forehead expanded to twice the size, forcing me to go the emergency room. Three weeks later I received an $800 bill in the mail.  That bill put a serious damper on my planned holiday spending.  I decided to call and see if I can negotiate it down and was successful!  After a few minutes, they agreed—accepting a lump sum payment of $500.

Aliche says the lump sum was a key part of her strategy— “I simply called and said I did not have $800 to pay, but what I did have was $500 to make in a lump sum payment immediately. “

Do you have other tips for bill haggling? Time worn strategies or specific phrases that always get you what you want? Share any secrets in the comments!

Thanks to Brendan Wood for the photo.

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