Saturday, August 29, 2015

I got a raise!

Everyone lives on a fixed income.

Seriously.

People who leave their homes and go to work at a "real" job, unless they are in a position where they get bonuses and commissions based on production/performance, meet their needs with the same resources month after month. They get small raises, just like Social Security recipients do, and manage to make it on their fixed incomes, just as SS-ers do.

One of the best ways to create more money coming in is to reduce the amount of money going out. And that's what I did this week.

Putting my walking activity on hold has opened up a couple extra hours every day. This week I spent one of them – just one! – on the phone with the providers of my wifi, my satellite service and my mobile phone. The result was impressive.

It started when my old phone kept dropping my home wifi signal. Every time it flipped from wifi to 3G or 4G, it ate data. I have a very low data plan, because I'm on my home wifi most of the time. But this month I used 75 percent of my data after only two weeks of the billing cycle.

At the tech support person's suggestion, I backed up and restored my phone to factory settings – a traumatizing experience – but doing so didn't solve the problem.

Last Sunday I went to the nearest retail location to try to figure it out. I also planned to visit the AT&T store, since that company just bought DirecTV (which is my satellite provider). I planned to look into what kind of discounts were available for bundling.

Without going into all the gory details, my cellular provider wasn't especially helpful and the AT&T person was. I was ready to switch. But I had to find out what the payoff was to get out of my contract. And that's what started the Monday morning phone odyssey.

  • I called US Cellular and spoke with an agent who did not want to lose a loyal customer. 
  • I spent some time speaking with a DirecTV associate who also rewarded me for my loyalty.
  • Ditto Frontier, although their contribution to my income was smaller, presumably because they know they're the only wireless game in town.

Here's how it went down.

The payoff from US Cellular was prohibitive, and the discount offered was impressive. They replaced my Samsung Galaxy S4 with an S6, beat AT&T's offer by $20/month, and doubled my data. Total savings over the old plan was more than $70 per month. And a new phone!

DirecTV gave me a $10/month discount, two new receivers – allowing us to watch a heckuva lot of free content with their OnDemand service – and I dropped HBO, resulting in about a $30 reduction in my monthly bill.

Frontier couldn't do much, but they did come through with a $10/month discount because I've been a customer for such a long time.

We're looking at a net savings of $110 per month. FOR REAL!

I feel bad about the AT&T agent. She was terrific, very helpful, and I know she was counting on a sale. I'm going to stop in and talk with her next time I'm in that neighborhood. I feel fairly certain she would have taken the same deal I did, though. And when my US Cellular contract ends, I'll have some bargaining power. And the promise of another $10/month discount on my DirecTV bill.

If you're feeling an economic pinch these days – I know it's getting better, but who couldn't use a little more money? [cough-theDonald-cough] – carve out an hour and make some calls. Find out what your provider can do to help you remain a happy customer. The deals are out there, but they're not generally offered – you have ask.

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