2 Phone Calls, 20 Minutes = $432 Saved

Managing Money / Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

2 phone calls 20 minutesWhen it comes to money, I believe in looking for ways to save money before you look for ways to make more money.

And when it comes to saving money, I believe in examining recurring charges before one-time purchases, because the same amount of effort will pay rewards month after month.

But it pays to remind myself of that from time to time, like I did on Sunday.

Ditching $20/month cell service.

I have an iPad 2 with built-in Verizon service. I like the feature of being able to turn the Verizon service (which costs $20/month) on and off a month at a time.

My plan when I bought the iPad was to turn the service on when I traveled and then turn it off when I was at home, which is most of the year.

Can you guess how that worked out?

It got turned on and stayed on. And while it was sometimes convenient to have it, it wasn’t $20/month worth of convenience.

Now it’s not hard to turn the service off from your iPad. Except I had forgotten my password. And the Forget Your Password? Feature wasn’t working for me because I no longer had access to the email I used to sign up, which is where they send your password.

Yuck, yuck, yuck.

It was going to involve calling an actual person, waiting on hold, jumping through some hoops. I hate that kind of stuff, which is why I had put this little task off.

But last Sunday I sucked it up and made the call. It took about 15 minutes including wait time to get it all handled and the service is now turned off. And our credit card bill will be $20 a month smaller.

Since I was on a roll, I called our cable provider and made a change too.

Kicking a premium cable channel to the curb.

Late last year, my dad lent us a Netflix disc with the first few episodes of Homeland on it.

That disc was like a gateway drug.

My kids and I became hooked on Homeland, so I called the cable company to change the HBO channel we had in our package to Showtime, so we could get caught up with the series.

That was a good move. We spent a lot of time over winter break indulging in Homeland marathons.

But that was two months ago and now Showtime is going unwatched and we don’t miss HBO either. So while I was in the cancelling groove, I made a 5 minute call to the cable company and cancelled Showtime, to the tune of $15.99/month plus some of those endless and confusing taxes on the cable bill as well.

How Small, Recurring Charges Add Up

For me, it’s so easy to ignore little costs like these and procrastinate doing something about them.

But while the individual, monthly amounts were small, over the course of a year, that $20/month Verizon service and $15.99/month premium cable channel was costing us $432.

That’s not a small amount.

That’s why recurring charges can be budget busters. And even when you eliminate them once, others may sneak in.

It’s not about getting rid of things you are using and that are providing value to you or your family, it’s about eliminating the things you’re not using, or are, but not enough to warrant their continuing costs. This makes more room in your budget for things that are a priority.

Good candidates for this kind of review are

  • Gym memberships
  • Magazine and newspaper subscriptions
  • Cable subscriptions
  • Netflix and Hulu-type entertainment subscriptions
  • Phone bill add-ons

Can you think of other recurring charges that fit in this category? Do you hate making customer service calls as much as I do?

24 Replies to “2 Phone Calls, 20 Minutes = $432 Saved”

  1. Love stories like this! April is going to be my “review it all” month in this regard. We are finishing up paying for my son’s expensive club Soccer Team for the year and I decided to revisit “all that stuff”. I already ditched my cell phone insurance coverage ($9.99/mo X 4 phones) when I realized the deductible ($150) was more than what it cost to repair a cracked screen and we’d just been carrying insurance since it was cheaper and had a much lower deductible.

    So, extra Cable Channels, Netflix, Angies List (joined for a specific need and didn’t cancel)….look out! :)

    1. Oh, Angie’s List…good call. I’ve joined that and subscribed to Consumer Reports Online when we’re getting ready to make a big purchase, and then forgotten to cancel later. You’re going to save a bundle on that cell phone insurance. Thanks for the comment, Eileen.

      1. Sorry I’m posting so much! Can’t resist sharing another tip…

        I learned this idea by accident when planning for our last vacation. At the time I made all of our road trip hotel bookings, I used the same “chain” because they had a promotional discount offer for the month we were travelling (the money saved was totally worth it).
        While I was on the phone with the reservation agent, I made a note in my budget tracker spreadsheet for the month after our vacation to CANCEL the service, since I always forget to do this. I noted my customer number, the 800 number to call, and the exact name of the promo offer. When I was balancing the books after vacation, I saw the reminder, and called right then & there to cancel the service. There was no issue at all, and I only incurred 1 month of “subscription” fee (which was still less than the overall savings for the vacation).

  2. I love when things work out to save money, but I do hate the process of having to talk to them and go through all the run around that they will put you through every time you try to cancel something or save money.

    1. I agree, MB. These phone calls went pretty well. The cable company made not effort to convince me to keep the premium channel and I only talked to Verizon in order to get my username/password figured out. I can turn the service off and on from my iPad.

      But I have experienced what you’re talking about in the past and it’s no fun at all.

  3. There are many companies that thrive and growth based on you not doing something. When I got my first cell phone, I made sure that texting and internet was blocked. I don’t use it and have no need for it. M approach is to avoid customer service so I do a little planning.

    1. Great point, KC. I’m sure every “free trial” offer is based on the premise that many (most?) people won’t bother to cancel. At least for a while.

  4. I recently switched car insurance companies, saved me $40 in the time it takes to get a quote. Very happy that I made that decision, as I’ll hopefully not need it.

    I subscribe to 5 magazines, but I don’t think I pay more than $2/year for any of them. There always seem to be great deals out there, you just need to wait for a promotion to pop up.

    1. I have had State Farm since my parents pointed me toward their agent when I had my first car in my name. There have been times that I’ve wondered about changing but never took that time. Recently I was adding a car to coverage and the rep for the agent mentioned that due to my longevity with State Farm (we’re talking >25 years), I had “guaranteed renewal” on our auto coverage. She said it was something that they no longer offered and even as a 10 year employee that she did not have available. With 2 teenage drivers, I thought that was a lovely benefit to have. :)

      Anyway, I felt like it was important to know that piece of info before considering making a change (which I likely won’t).

      1. We also take advantage of multi-line discounts with our insurance (also State Farm!). We have just about everything thru SF, and the savings are significant versus piece-meal insurance plans.

  5. I have been doing this for years with my gas bill. My furnace is the only thing in my house which runs on natural gas. The basic fee is $34.96 a month. The reconnect fee is only $20.00. So for the 6 months of the year I have no use for the heater, I have the gas service suspended. This is a savings of $189.96 even after paying the $20.00 fee.

  6. After reading your recurring charges post I checked my Verizon bill and found out that while I never checked the breakdown I was not only paying $59. a month plus $6. for a receiver for Directv but also $6.a month for a protection plan and a new $2. per month for a regional sports fee. With taxes the monthly fee is almost $80. I do not enjoy customer service calls either but I did call and I did cancel. I just saved $1000. a year and Netflix with streaming is only $18. a month. I feel much better ! MaryEllen

    1. Mary Elllen…wow! What a huge savings. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience and enjoy the extra $$. :)

  7. I could not agree more with this post, especially with getting rid of cable / satellite subscriptions. We got a Roku & Amazon Prime over the holidays, and for a one-time purchase of a $79 device, plus a once-per-year Prime subscription $79, we have access to pretty much the same entertainment as we normally watch via satellite (which is $90 A MONTH!)

    I cannot convince my husband to discontinue the satellite, though. *Sigh*

  8. How about home insurance that increases your rate by almost 80% because you filed a claim for damages due to Hurricane Sandy. I called around and finally found a company that was amazingly lower with a good service record via a Consumer Reports survey. I got the new policy at last year’s rate and I got my car insurance and my umbrella policy cheaper. So the life insurance company that expects you to be complacent and gets greedy in this case lost my homeowners AND my car insurance. But I had to spend a lot of time doing this; it was very much worth it!

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