3 super handy tricks to lower bills

Does it seem like you're paying too much when your bills show up every month? Here are some ways to cut back on expense without cutting services, especially when you target common culprits like cable.

3 super handy tricks to lower bills

Get 4-1-1 for free

Here's a way to sidestep the directory assistance charge on your phone bill, which can cost 75 cents to a dollar per request: check out the Internet sites by searching for a 411 for the service or business that you're looking for.

  • Most businesses have their own website set up just for customers, so you'll likely get more information on top of contact numbers and addresses.

Cut those cable bills

Cable and satellite TV companies won't yell from the treetops, "You're paying too much for your service!" but almost all of them are open to negotiating your service rates. Here's how you do it:

  1. Call the "billing inquiries" number on your bill. When you get a human on the phone, tell him or her that you've been receiving offers from satellite or cable (whichever one you don't have) and that you're being offered a significantly better deal.
  2. It helps if you actually have a real offer in hand. Chances are, this operator will pass you along to a different department. Tell this next person that you're happy with your service, but the price differential has you thinking about switching.
  3. Ask if he can offer a similar price. You will almost certainly be offered a price break.

What manufacturers don’t want you to know about refunds

The dirty secret of companies that offer refunds is that many, if not most, of the people who buy an item with a refund offer don't actually bother to claim it — or they make some mistake that disqualifies their claim.

Claiming a refund takes time and patience, but if you're buying something that you would buy anyway, applying for a refund puts money back in your pocket — and in the case of big-ticket items, it can be a significant amount. To make the most of refunds, keep these points in mind.

  • Apply for the refund as soon as you get home. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to do it. The expiration dates can be very short.
  • Remove the product code or other part of the package designated as the proof of purchase. Fill out the refund form, photocopy it and mail it. Be sure to include the proof of purchase, a copy of the receipt and anything else that is required. Send exactly what is specified or you'll be disqualified.
  • Keep a log of refunds that you have requested, listing the item, the company, the amount due and the date you mailed it.
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