We've talked a lot in this column about ways to achieve two primary goals—paying off debt and boosting your savings. It's hard to do both at the same time, especially when funds are already tight.
Sure, you can find a buck here and a buck there by being rigorous about your routine spending. When you've already tackled all the obvious little things and still don't have as much financial breathing room as you'd like, it's painfully frustrating to look for still more ways to trim your budget.
It frosts my cupcakes to get offers in the mail for special prices on bundled services when I'm already a customer of the cable or telephone service provider. Why should new clients get all the perks? As it happens, you often can cash in, too—just by speaking up.
Collect those mailed offers for a few weeks and make some notes about your current service and the special offers. Now, call the cable or telephone company and make it clear that you have the attractive option of going with another provider; the tempting offers are right in front of you, after all. Point out that you would be happy to forgo the hassle of making a switch, but only if the service provider is willing to make it worth your while.
Now be quiet and wait for an offer. If it isn't what you were hoping to hear, say so. "I'm disappointed that you aren't able to do a little better than that. Perhaps I could talk with your supervisor about alternatives?" Again, be quiet and wait for an offer.
You don't have to make a commitment on this call unless you get an offer that's too good to pass up. Make some notes and say you will call back when you've had time to consider the offer. You might get a call with a sweetened offer before you even can make up your mind.
Ask for a time commitment and then monitor your next few bills to make sure that the deal you struck is the deal you actually get. And when the deal is about to expire, say in a year or 18 months, call back and start over.
With a few variations you can replay this scenario in other similarly productive ways.
For example, call your insurance agent and ask for a review of your coverage. Point out all the benefits you bring to the table—no accidents or citations, no claims, low-mileage driver, the teenage driver in your household gets excellent grades, smoke alarms in all bedrooms—whatever accurate information might influence a lower insurance premium.
If this gets you nowhere, or not as far as you'd like, remind the agent that you'd like to call a few other providers before you renew your policy. And then follow through and make those other calls. It might produce supporting information for your request to the current insurer, or it could lead you to an even better deal.
The people at your credit union are serious about helping you achieve and maintain financial health. They bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your financial resources. The Financial Fitness Challenge continues to look at ways you can make better financial habits no matter what condition the economy is in.
Each month we randomly select five winners to receive $50 Visa gift cards; we choose each month's winners only from that month's entries, so enter every month. Remember to register for the Financial Fitness Challenge.
Susan Tiffany, CCUFC
Home & Family Finance® Resource Center
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