52-week challenge: Renegotiating utilities © iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages
52-week challenge: Renegotiating utilities

Editor’s note: Each week, one of Bankrate’s personal finance reporters is reporting on a new way to save and chronicling the savings journey. This week, a reporter tried to renegotiate her utilities. See what happened.

Negotiating doesn’t come easy for me. I’m a recovering people pleaser, so I hate any kind of conflict, whether it’s with my friends, or my cable or electric company.

But for this assignment, I was tasked with trying to lower my utility bills using only my conflict-resolution skills.

Did I overcome my fear?

Lowering my cable bill

Lowering my cable bill © iStock.com/deepblue4you

When I moved into my apartment, I signed up for a special promotional deal with my cable company for Internet service. Thing is, I thought $40 for Blast service was the ongoing rate and not just a promo. (I’ve never lived alone before; my roommates took care of that kind of thing.)

Fast forward to a year later when it became quite noticeable how slow my Internet was. On top of it, I was suddenly paying twice my usual rate. Suddenly, my fear of conflict was nowhere to be seen.

Enter the good news/bad news scenario.

Though I was calm on the phone, I explained how upset I was by the sharp increase in service costs. They gave me free cable for a year and even shipped the cable box for free.

Yes, I got free cable. However, my Internet bill stayed the same. Turns out, if I wanted to get back my speedy Internet service, I had to pay that steep bill. Being a reporter, I need the Internet to do research and other work at home, so I begrudgingly gave in. Ugh.

On the other hand, if I’d bundled Internet and cable, I would have saved $120 a year. I just have to remember to cancel my service after the free year is up. Believe me, I will.

Lowering my electric bill

Lowering my electric bill © iStock.com/D4Fish

As for my electric bill, I made no headway. This is another good news/bad news type of deal, though.

I consume very little electricity. I wasn’t shocked by that because I really do make an effort to conserve the power I use. I’m gone more than I’m at home, and before I leave, I always turn up the AC to 81 or 82 degrees (I live in Florida). When I’m home, I put it back down to between 72 and 78 degrees.

Anyway, a nice woman named Natalie at the electric company told me that I could potentially take advantage of their “On Call” program. In turn, Natalie put me through to another woman in that department named Annie, who told me more about it.

Essentially, I could save up to $137 a year by allowing them to turn off various equipment, such as my AC or water heater, when I’m not home, or when I’m not using those things. They’d install a small energy-management device on my water heater or air conditioner, and would switch it off remotely for short periods of time whenever there is high electricity demand.

Unfortunately, I did not qualify for the program. Annie said my power consumption was too low to qualify for the On Call program.

I am glad to know that I use energy sparingly, but it’s too bad I couldn’t have saved even more money on my electric bill.

Silver linings

Silver linings © iStock.com/Gajus

So, this experiment has had mixed results. I may not have saved much money, but I was gratified to learn that my electric use is conservative. I’m also grateful to have cable without paying for it.

If I’m feeling really ambitious and brave, I might even see about getting rid of Internet. I would really enjoy keeping $80 more each month.