Today's tip is two fold. One, if you are reading this, you are online. This means you are also able to receive all your bills that way. We highly recommend receiving and paying bills online, and opting out of paper billing for a few reasons, including the environment, from both a paper perspective and the delivery perspective. Also for the fact that each company will keep your records. Paperwork is the bane of my existence and anything I can do to reduce the amount of paper I have to move around from location to location in my house is welcome.
Our most important tip, one that we have done nearly every January, once we dig out from our end of the year bills and before we start our taxes is to assess every monthly bill you have and see where we can cut expenses. Every January, I go through all our files and shred any documents over a year old, unless they are necessary. (I look forward to the day there isn't a single piece of paper to shred... ahh one can dream, right?) This gives me a chance to assess where we may be able to reduce monthly costs on cell phones, utilities, credit cards, cable, anything we pay on a regular basis. Many times reducing a bill is as simple as a phone call.
Below I have included our bill for quarterly garbage collection for the past year, copied it from our online statements. I received an offer from a competitor that was significantly lower, so I called to renegotiate or cancel service to change to their competitor. They agreed to match the competitor's rates.
You will notice that our bill at the end of 2010 was nearly twice what it is currently. I called in January, and thought it was not rectified by the next billing cycle, after another phone call, they credited my account (not as much as I thought they should, but still a credit) then my bill has been half what it was for a year now. Understand that no company will lower your rates just to be nice. You must ask. If they can charge you more, naturally they will.
I also have any bill I can automatically charged to my credit card that offers a rebate. The key to that is paying the credit card in full or the interest charges far exceed the amount of the rebate.
To recap today's tip: Don't be afraid to negotiate your bills. Admittedly, it took several phone calls and probably 2 total hours of time either on hold or a phone call. My time is worth the savings of about $120/annually. You can also negotiate with your cable and cell company. While your heating, water and electric bills may not be negotiable, there are ways to reduce those which will we have addressed in the past and will revisit in the future.