Canadians now pay a whopping average of $223 per month for their phone, cable and internet services, and households with a yearly income lower than $32,090 spend almost 10% of that on telecom charges alone. But, with cable and especially phone and internet access being practically necessities these days, you want to learn how to save money wherever you can.
Be curious, get informed
Around 10 years ago, Carl Neumann, a husband and father of two from King City, ON, started to notice a pattern in his phone calls with service providers. Along with expected fee increases, he noticed he was being presented with pre-packaged options that were supposed to add services and save money. But he felt the companies were limiting his choices, not offering more.
Carl began to ask himself questions like Why is Package 1 more expensive than Package 2? I don’t need those things in Package 2. Why can’t I get everything in the first package for the price of the second? He felt companies shouldn’t be making him choose between two less-than-ideal options.
“I love being cheap,” he says with a grin.
So, Carl decided his communications with service providers would be a negotiation, not a dictatorship. He has spent years developing these strategies — and there are many helpful blogs and websites out there like the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada that echo the same advice. It boils down to one thing: making yourself more aware of what you’re paying for.
Research the competition
“Every two years I end up spending well over an hour on the phone with [my service provider] negotiating a deal for the next two-year contract,” says Carl. “I don't know if I'm getting the best deal, but I always end up paying a fair bit less than they initially quoted me.”
The secret to paying less and saving money, he says, is being prepared. “Let your service provider know that you have shopped around and you found a better price elsewhere,” says Carl. “Be specific. Tell them who you are considering switching to — and why.”
Tip #1: Quote their competitors’ numbers when speaking with a service rep; they’ll know you mean business.
Save money on upgrades and bundles
“It seems like the service providers don't even want to talk to you unless you’re buying multiple services from them,” says Carl. These bundles are often presented at a time when the company is promoting a new service. This is an opportunity: They want to sell their new services, and you want to save money.
“The service providers are reluctant to offer any deals if you want to stay with the exact same products,” says Carl. “If they can upsell you to faster internet or more TV channels, then suddenly discounts become available.”
Tip #2: Be careful not to add too many services, because you may wind up paying more than you were before.
Money talks — and customers can walk
Remember, these big companies need your money. Be prepared to switch providers if you don't get the discount you want. But, before you end the relationship, consider the headaches that may result. What if the service provider you’re leaving is the same one that carries your personal email account?
“It can be a hassle to switch your email,” says Carl. “One solution is to use an email that’s not tied to your service provider, like Gmail or Yahoo.”
Save money by dropping services
If you’re overwhelmed by talk of bundles, packages and add-ons, you can always think about cutting services. But first, think about what you need. For example, Carl suggests ditching your home phone and cable TV, then upgrading to unlimited internet.
“Start streaming your TV shows,” he suggests. “You'll probably end up paying a little more for the one product, but overall it will probably be much less than the three discounted products combined.”
Tip #3: Contact your service provider about a month before your contract ends so you get the new pricing before your old contract ends. Depending on how the billing cycle works, you could end up paying a discounted price for a few weeks before the new contract even kicks in!
In it for the long call
It’s always a good idea to contact your service provider when you have time to spare. A call like this is a marathon, not a sprint, so be prepared to be on the phone for over an hour. Expect the customer service rep to put you on hold and then disappear, claiming to be “checking with my manager” — before returning to try to sell additional products. Don’t take the bait: Remember your goal is to save money.
Globe and Mail, August 16, 2018, “CRTC report says low-income Canadians spending ‘absurd’ amount on telecom services” https://www.theglobeandmail.com/business/article-crtc-report-says-low-income-canadians-spending-absurd-amount-on/
Compare Services | CRTC, https://crtc.gc.ca/eng/comm/compar.htm
Interview with Carl Neumann