Monday, February 15, 2010

Do a Bill Check-up

Let's face it .... paying bills is something that no one likes to do but there's no way around it. Some bills are for needs ... housing, water, electricity/gas, home & auto insurance ... while others are for wants (that some may see as needs) ... cell phone, cable/satellite. The question is are you paying more than you have to for those needs and/or wants?

At least once a year I look each of the service providers I use and my plans and bills with them. Am I paying more than I would with a different plan or provider? Have my needs changed since I last looked over them? I call each provider to make sure that I am taking advantage of the best price possible for the service I am getting.

Cable/Satellite TV is something that is probably debatable for some as to whether it is a need or a want. I see it as a want and as a want that costs more than I'm willing to pay for it. Up until about two years ago we had a bare bones cable plan. It really only provided us good reception with no extra channels. We were paying about $12 month for it. My hubby did some research and found that a $60 antenna was all we needed to get the same TV reception we were paying for. We canceled our cable service and after 5 months of not paying the $12 bill our antenna paid for itself. Sure my kids don't have all the "greatest" cartoon channels that their friends do and we don't have a million and one channels to choose from but there is no shortage of TV to watch in our house. In fact we probably watch too much TV so I can't imagine what we'd do with a whole bunch more channels to choose from.

If cable or satellite is not something you would go without, have you price shopped the plans your current provider offers or the plans of other providers?  There seems to be "Specials" offered all the time it's worth a phone call to see if your current bill can be reduced.

Home phone service along with Cell phone service is again one of those things that some consider a want while others consider a need.  Are both phone services necessary?  Many people I know have canceled their home phone service and use only cell phones.  I know others who have only a minimum cell phone plan for emergencies only.

We still have both.  I am one of those who considers my cell phone a necessity.  I know I could do without it and of course I used to do so.  I do very regularly call my provider to be sure I still have the best plan for me.  My most recent phone call saved me $10 a month.  My plan has plenty of minutes ... more than I use actually ... but not as many as I would use if I used my cell phone solely and did not have a home phone.

We get one bill for our home phone plus our Internet service.  Yes I think that internet is a necessity too ... however for some it may not be though.  I called Cincinnati Bell several years ago to see if I could reduce our bill in anyway.  I was given a promotional rate good for 6 months.  Guess what I did 6 months later?  Yep I called back and they continued my promotion for another 6 months.  6 months later ... I called back again.  This time ... not sure if I called at the right time or what ... but I was given that promo rate with no end date.  They said that I would receive it for life ... of course the skeptic in me wonders if that will be true but so far it hasn't changed.  For about the last year and a half we've paid less than half for our home phone/internet than I was paying before my first phone call.

We have only Electric ... not gas ... in our house so I know nothing about gas costs.  I called Duke occasionally just to see if there were any promotions but only once did that phone call save me anything.  I didn't think that we had a choice for our electric provider until recently.   I posted here about Dominion Retail.  After lots of research and phone calls we did decide to switch.  The switch will take a month or two so I haven't seen yet how it will impact our bill. Duke Energy Customer Service helped me figure out the Price to Compare or the rate I was paying per kWh based on our previous 1 year usage.  Based on this we will save money by switching to Dominion.  That may not be true for all though. 

I just renewed our Auto and Homeowners insurance policies.  Even though I handle our bill paying and checking account.  My hubby handles our Homeowners policy.  He is a property adjuster so he knows way more than I do!  As far as our Auto policy though this year my research didn't change our bill but in years past is has.  Two years in a row I found that by getting a new policy with the same company our rates were less than the renewal rate.  I don't get that one but it was worth my time online to get a new quote.

Other bills like water, sewage, waste and recycling are ones that I watch and have called to inquire about but haven't had them reduced in anyway.

I don't want to encourage you to play games or be dishonest but I have found that with all the phone calls I make I've had the best luck at saving money by either speaking to a manager or by choosing the "close your account" option.  The first contact customer service reps don't always have the authority to make any special offers.

So take some time to look at your bills and make some phone calls.  I'd love to hear the outcomes and if you were able to save any money!

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