The Secret to Lowering Your Monthly Bills

Did you know that the price you are paying every month for services like cable, internet, cell phones, and other subscription plans might be too much? It could take a simple phone call to get your bills reduced and help you save more money.

My friend Mike has been doing this for years and when he shared his strategy with me a few weeks ago I told him I had to share it with my readers.

secret to lowering your bills

Think you don’t have time to make the calls? Mike has been keeping track of this for five years and figures his hourly wage for these phone calls is almost $200! I’d make a few phone calls for $200 and hour, wouldn’t you?

Below is the “script” he uses when he calls to get his bills lowered.
If you are like me, then you make 1 or 2 phone calls per month with various companies to get your bills reduced, fixed, or cancelled.

I want to give you a simple yet unconventional approach that has nearly always worked for me over the years. This script is so good it even got my wife a brand new iPhone after she dropped it and had no Apple Care (Apple is notoriously stingy on credits to customers).

Step one is utilizing gethuman.com or the gethuman app to figure out the most efficient way to get the right customer service representative (CSR) as quickly as possible. Gethuman is the machete that slices your way through the phone tree. Also, make sure you have your account number handy and that you are an “authorized user” on the account.

Step two is going to the right department. If the goal of my call is to get my bill slashed, credited, reduced, or cancelled then I always go to the CSRs in the “retention department.”

Sometimes you have to say things like “cancel my service” in order to get to this department. The reason I go to this department is because in nearly all call centers this department has the authorization to give you the best credits, deals, freebies, or other incentives to retain your business.

Step three is rapport and attitude. No matter how upset you are, you need to shelve it and be very likable. Imagine having a job where people are upset with you all day and how nice it is when someone interrupts that pattern with an empathetic mindset.

Smile while you are talking to them. Ask them for their name and address them by their name. Find one thing that you can connect with them about during the duration of your call.

Step four is finding three things to compliment their company, product, or business. If you are immediately irate and launch into your complaint than the CSR is likely going to think that there is a low probability of retaining you as a customer.

However, start by building up their company or product with three specific things that you have enjoyed about their brand. This softens the blow of step five while still having the CSR lean towards you being most likely retain-able.

Step five is communicate your complaint, frustration, or desire to cut costs. Be specific about the core issues that you have. Recall that you have already built up the company, their brand, their product… etc. in step four – this gives you the right to say that they haven’t measured up to their own standards.

The CSR will be more inclined to agree with your complaints because you’ve already built up the company, brand, product, or experience. The magic phrase here is that “I am really disappointed with company name here and I expect better and I know you are capable of it.”

A helpful phrase to soften your complaint is, “I know this isn’t your fault and I am not upset with you, BUT…”

Note:  If you have an actual tech support issue, retention will not be able to help you, but may be able to compensate you – but this will have to either be a phone transfer or a separate phone call.

Step six is be quiet and listen. The first rule of negotiation is that whomever speaks first… loses. Wait for the CSR to respond. Usually the CSR will respond with two or three things:

  1. An explanation of a policy that may have led to the bad service
  2. A quasi-sincere apology on behalf of the company
  3. An offer of some sort of refund, rebate, freebie, hidden/secret offer, one-time credit.

Step seven is actual negotiation. Sometimes CSRs will ask you what you want, try as best you can to lob the ball back into their court with something like, “I really don’t know, whatever is typical or customary for a circumstance like mine.”

Then wait and listen for their offer. If the offer is no good, then you can always say that it isn’t agreeable or acceptable to you and you can negotiate for more. However, if you spoke first, you will never get anything better offer than what you throw out there.
If all of these steps have failed, then there is the optional step eight.

Optional – Step eight is either asking to “escalate the phone call” or to hang up and start with step one with a different retention CSR.

Good luck with your calls. I keep a spreadsheet of my call logs to make sure that they are worth my time. My running five year average is $196/hour in credits, rebates, and/or other incentives.

I don’t make that in my job so these phone calls are still worth my time. The key is being able to get to the right human quickly, be winsome and efficient on the phone, and sticking to the script.

You can find Mike on the web at MichaelSGraham.com and Mike & Sara Graham Photography

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How to Save Money on Produce

Fresh fruits and vegetables are one our largest grocery expenses. Since one of my goals is to get our family eating healthier, our consumption of these items has risen significantly in the past year.

My kids can easily eat three pounds of bananas at lunch. There are not normally coupons for produce but you can still save by shopping smart and using a few of these tricks to get the lowest price on produce.

how to save money on produce

Coupons

I rarely have produce coupons, but use them when I do. Ibotta, Checkout 51 and Cartwheel all offer produce coupons so use them when you can.

Buy Seasonally

I find saving money on produce in the winter is the hardest. Most of our favorite fruits are out of season and their prices are at a premium.

Eat seasonally to save on produce and stock up and freeze produce so you can enjoy your favorites year round.

 

Apples, citrus, and squash are in season during the fall and winter so it is easy to find them on sale and under a dollar a pound.

Grapes, berries, and corn are in season in the spring and summer so we don’t eat grapes until then. I also stock up on frozen fruit and veggies (with a coupon, of course) so that we can have our berry smoothies in February.

Shop Produce When It’s a Loss Leader

This week one of the local grocery stores had white grapes on sale for $0.99 a pound. This is a great way to stock up on some favorites even if they aren’t in season. Just don’t drive 20 miles to save three dollars on grapes. Plan your trip and only buy from your list and what is on sale.

Buy Bagged Produce

This is a fun little produce secret that will save you a few cents every time you shop.

Citrus, apples and potatoes are all familiar items that can be purchased by the pound or in three, five, and ten pound bags. You almost always get a better deal buying the bagged stuff.

Companies are required to fill produce bags with at least five pounds of produce in a five pound bag. However, almost always the bags are even heavier. Use the scale in the produce department to find the heaviest bag for the biggest savings.

When you bag your own produce you are charged on the actual weight, so you usually get a better deal when buying produce in bulk bags.

Get to Know Your Produce Manager

Ask them what they do with their expired produce and if they would be willing to sell them to you at a discount.

Most of these items are still fit for consumption. You can make applesauce out of bruised apples and there are so many uses for brown bananas. Many fruits and veggies can be shredded and frozen or canned even when they are a little over ripe.

If You Buy Organic Only Pay Extra When It Matters

I try to buy organic when I can, but I also want to send seven kids to college and retire some day, so I have limits on what I can afford.

The USDA has published a list of produce with the highest and lowest levels of pesticide contamination. Spend your money on the items that are on the top of the list and don’t bother with the foods that are at the bottom.

Farmer’s Market

This is a hit or miss. Sometimes you can find really great deals and other times you are just paying for the atmosphere. Know your prices before you go and know what you are willing to pay.

Don’t get caught up in the quaintness of it all, if you are trying to save money. If you are going to support your local farmers then spend like there is no tomorrow. I happen to think this is a cause worth supporting. Mom and Pop farms are dying out and they will only survive with our support.

Join a CSA

When you join a CSA you are buying shares of a farm’s produce. Every week or two you pick up your box of produce. You don’t always know what you are going to get, but the produce is very fresh and grown locally.

You can find out more about CSA’s and find one in your area on LocalHarvest.org.

Grow Your Own

I have friends with huge gardens that support their family and then some. I also have friends that grow tomatoes and peppers in pots on their front porch. I think it is debatable how much money you will actually save on a garden, depending on the size, and how many trips to the garden store you have to make in the summer.

It is a great project for kids. Last year we started seeds in egg cartons inside our home, in March, in a little miniature green house. It was fun to see which ones sprouted and which were the duds. It also encouraged the kids to eat vegetables since they were the ones responsible for weeding, watering, and picking our small harvest.

The nice thing about growing your own is that you know that your food wasn’t picked before it was ripe four weeks ago, sprayed with something that just can’t be good for you, put on a ship, then on a truck, and then delivered to your local store where it sat on the shelf for a week before you bought it.

Check out this blog if you want to find out if a garden really saves you money.

Make Friends With a Gardener

If you live in a more rural area there are probably many people who have sizable gardens every summer. Most people I know have more food than they know what to do with, especially things like tomatoes and squash.

Offer to help them in the garden in exchange for some free food. If weeding isn’t your thing offer to babysit, or trade something else in exchange for some fresh veggies. I have a friend who bakes delicious fresh ground whole wheat bread which she then trades with others for food and other services.

Buy Frozen

Frozen vegetables are usually fresh frozen and there are more coupons available. You also don’t have to worry about frozen vegetables going bad before you can eat them.

You can eat healthy on a budget if you follow these simple steps and stop paying full price for produce.

This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.

Free and Fun Family Activities in Your Local Area 1/16 – 1/18

Each week I’ll post links with fun and inexpensive (or free) things to do in your local area and national deals that everyone can enjoy!

National Park

National Activities:

American Girl:  January In-Store Events (Events vary by location and minimum age. Find events specific to your area online. Reservations required. For girls ages 8 and up.) During January, they include Grace’s Travel Tags craft, Grace’s Apron Craft & Cookie Decoration, Twists & Braids hands-on hairstyles, Princess Bitty Baby Story Time, Making Memories with Mom and Dad, Valentin Card Craft and more.

Barnes and Nobles: This Saturday, January 16th at 11am, participating locations will be holding a Hug Machine Storytime!

Guitar Center: Free Classes through their Music Mentor Series. Register online. No age restriction.

  • Saturday, January 17th: 10 AM – Recording Made Easy for Garage Band
  • Saturday, January 17th: 10:15 AM – Group Ukulele Lesson

Kindermusik: Try a free class (see all the information here). Kindermusik ~ Where Music & Learning Play!

  • Classes for children from newborn to age seven
  • Child development through music and movement
  • Immerse your child in a musical atmosphere of play, song, and dance – while developing fundamental skills
  • Connect with other moms, dads, and families

Lakeshore Learning: Saturday, January 17th from 11AM-3PM ~ Kids make and take a Crafty Catapult.

Michael’s Kids Club: Kids can enjoy making a craft every Saturday. This week they are making a Freeze Frame project. Designed for kids ages 3 and up ($2/child). Starts at 10 AM and runs every 30 minutes on Saturdays. You can shop while they create.

National Parks:  In honor of Martin Luther King Day , January 19th, admittance to national parks will be free. Check the listing for participating parks and hours.

Williams-Sonoma Free Technique Classes (for kids and adults): Saturday, January 17th at 9:30 AM ~ Junior Chefs will learn how to make yummy burgers with great toppings. Check the webpage for additional details and make a reservation.  For ages 5+.

Thanks, More with Less Today!

Local Activities:

If you are a blogger who posts a local round-up of family activities, then feel free to fill out this form to be considered for future posts.

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6 Ways to Save on Ski Trips

By contributing writer Laura

Skiing is a fun winter activity, but the costs can add up when you consider ski lift fees, equipment rental, plus travel and lodging expenses. If you’ve been itching to hit the slopes but have been balking at the prices, check out these ways to save on ski trips.

6 Ways to Save on Ski Trips at The Happy Housewife

1. Ski Free

At participating ski resorts in California, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan, you can earn a free ski lift ticket with purchase of 10 gallons of gas at Shell stations during early January through mid April. Visit SkiFreeDeals.com to see a list of participating resorts and find out more about the Ski Free offer.

2. Liftopia

This site offers lift ticket deals at hundreds of ski resorts across North America, Europe, South America, and Australia. Liftopia.com offers a variety of deals, with options for the biggest savings when you choose a specific date in advance that is non-refundable and non-changeable. They also offer discounts for lift tickets that offer more flexibility, allowing a one-time date change or unlimited date changes during the season.

3. Get Ski Tickets

You can grab US & Canadian lift ticket deals by visiting GetSkiTickets.com. They offer steep discounts up to 60% off lift tickets, plus you can find discounts on season passes, lessons, and even ski rentals.

4. Sliding on the Cheap

Another great resource for finding cheap ski and snowboard deals is SlidingontheCheap.com. This site covers Colorado, Utah, Lake Tahoe, Southern California, Pacific Northwest, and New England resorts.

5. Spinlister

Avoid investing in your own ski equipment or paying pricey rental fees at the resort. Plan ahead and rent skis directly from owners who list their skis, snowboards, and bicycles for rent on Spinlister.com. You can search for items to rent in your area, and after requesting an item from a listing, you can coordinate rental pick-up.

6. Free Kid Passes

Some resorts offer free lift tickets for children with purchase of an adult several-day pass. If you are planning a family trip, be sure to research the ski resorts in your area and call to ask if they offer any discounts for children. I’ve heard some participating resorts are located in Colorado, North Carolina, and Montana.

Also look for state-offered ski deals to students in certain grades. For example, 4th and 5th graders can apply for free ski passes in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, 3rd and 4th graders in New York, 5th graders in Vermont, and 5th and 6th graders in Utah.

These passport/pass offers vary by state. Some are good for free lift tickets from 3-days to the entire winter season, and they range in price from $0 to $45 covering processing fees. Some states require that students be residents of the state to participate in the free ski program while others do not require that, so read the fine print.

What other ways do you like to save money on ski trips? Leave a comment and share your tips!

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This post may contain a link to an affiliate. See my disclosure policy for more information.