DIY ways to cut your cable and mobile bills

Ahh, the age old battle of cable TV and internet pricing. Here in Canada, prices are the among the highest in the developed world. Paying for your cable TV and internet, or your cellphone, is a pricey thing. People easily spend in excess of $200 a month on these bills. Many of those bills are for services which haven’t been changed or updated in years. Unfortunately, telecommunication providers won’t go out of the way to help you reduce these bills, often increasing them annually for no real reason, or stuffing sneaky additional fees into the bill. Worst of all, some plans lure you in with low prices, only to jump up to full price after three months.

So how do you reduce your cable, internet and mobile costs? You could consider hiring a service to do it, and they will get you some incredible prices. But, these providers often charge you the savings for six months to a year, meaning your monthly bills don’t change right away. Thankfully, there are some ways to knock down that bill.

Spend the time on the phone

Nobody likes to call customer service. Conversely, the customer service reps probably aren’t keen to talk to angry or cranky customers, either. Before you tackle this step, have a coffee or tea. Eat some food. Never call customer service when you’re short on patience. You’re going to be in for a long haul, and patience and thankfulness go a long way. Then make sure you know what you want. Providers rely on confusing packages and technical jargon to misdirect you. The easiest approach is just to keep what you have. Take a look at your last bill, or log onto your online profile. Make note of things, like how much mobile data you get, monthly internet usage caps and internet upload and download speed. If you’re looking for an upgrade, go online to the packages the provider offers, and what the competitors offer. With all that done, it’s time to call customer support.

Once on the call, firmly, but politely, ask for customer retention. Customer retention typically have access to more aggressively priced promos. Now the real fun begins. Armed with your information, clearly state what you want, and how much you want to pay for it. This sounds crazy, but it gives the analyst an indication on what prices will get your interest. They will counter with a package or bundle. Ensure to write down what the offer includes, focusing on the key points you’re looking for (usage caps, speed, etc). Next, let them know that’s not good enough. Work with the representative to mix, match and bundle to bring the price down. Be prepared to settle for a deal on the phone. Through the whole process, ensure to be firm. Stand your line, but without being a dink. Thank the representative for their work, and be professional.

Settle for the contract

Contracts are Telco’s way of sucking you into a plan for the long haul. It’s their way of keeping you as a customer, or at least guaranteeing you’ll be spending your money with them for the next couple years. Not all contracts are bad, however, and you can even use them to your advantage. Let’s face it, when it comes to cable internet, TV and mobile, you’re not likely to switch. Once you’ve put the effort into calling and negotiating, lock into a contract for greater cost savings. Use what was intended to trap you as leverage to make the provider work for your loyalty. Note, however, that contracts generally should be avoided initially. Make it the last card played when negotiating with the representative. Just as with negotiating in any other capacity, pace things out. Once you’re close to a good deal with some monthly savings, ask about the contract. Don’t be afraid of committing, you can change plans at any time with most providers.

The exception is never settle for a contract with a $0 phone. The cost to get out of these is extreme.

Check your bill every month

Hidden or incidental charges can mean death by a thousand cuts. Be on the look out for charges that you didn’t agree to, or are not part of normal usage. Any extra fees, outside of paying for the service implicitly, should be questioned or refunded. Check each month to see if you are getting overage charges. Providers won’t warn you right away if you go over on your data usage, or have burned through all your minutes. When you make the initial purchase, get a firm price of what your monthly charge should be. Ask about partial or first time charges, and get it all sent to you via email for your records. It takes five minutes of your time, but checking your bill every month could help reduce your bills, sometimes by a significant margin.

Buy your own smartphone

While the $0 price tags on some current generation phones is tempting, don’t let greed suck you in. The best way to lower your monthly mobile costs is to BYOD: Bring Your Own Device. Nearly all providers offer discounted, contract free plans for BYOD. The cost of a new phone can be very daunting. Current generation phones range from $500 to $1,100, and beyond. This is where pride and greed have to be swallowed like a spiky, bitter pill. Get online to Kijiji, eBay or Craigslist and search for the phone you want. Dozens of people are offering slightly used versions of current phones for hundreds of dollars off. Be cautious, however, and make sure devices are either unlocked, or from your provider. Even better, search for previous generation phones. Products like the LG G4 or Samsung S6 are still excellent phones, but sell for as low as $250 second hand. iPhones generally hold their value much better in the second hand market, so you may have to go without. Because you can save $15 a month, or more, just by bringing a device, that works out to $180 in savings each year.

Target the add ons

Many current plans offer value adds that bring the overall cost of the plan down. Free subscriptions to music services can add $10 of value to a plan, per month. Try focusing on plans that include subscriptions to premium services while speaking to a representative. Some providers offer rewards points systems with their plans, while others are phasing them out. Whenever possible, chose plans that earn points. Rewards points give you a fraction of your money back on each bill. Later on these rewards can be traded in for free services, movies and other interesting stuff.

Threaten to leave, then do it

This is not a new idea for most. Threatening to leave shouldn’t be the first thing you do, nor the middle. It should be your last. This is the nuclear solution, and you should be willing to follow up. Only make this threat when you are going to legitimately leave the provider. Ensure you are able to do so without getting slammed with early discharge fees. Make the threat with the same professionalism the rest of the conversation is carried in. Ask to be transferred to a cancellation team. Typically this will trigger some internal process where they try to keep you. Hold your ground, cancel your service. Some providers, but not all, have third party call centers that follow up a day or two after your cancellation order is submitted. They may offer some serious discounts to re-open your account.

The best ways to reducing your internet or mobile bills really is spending some time. Providers rely on the complacency of their customers. Mark down when your contract or promotions expire. Call ahead of time to catch them before they do. As with anything, a little bit of effort can have a big reward.

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