Self-made millionaire Ramit Sethi: How to lower 4 monthly bills you hate paying

These monthly bills are negotiable, according to Ramit Sethi
These monthly bills are negotiable, according to Ramit Sethi

It's never fun to pay bills. But many more of your recurring expenses are up for negotiation than you might think, according to Ramit Sethi, author of the New York Times best-seller "I will teach you to be rich."

Cable, cell phone, internet — "These companies want to keep you," he says to CNBC Make It. "Work with them."

Sethi says people don't try to negotiate their bills for two reasons: they feel uncomfortable and scared or they get too angry.

"Negotiations should not be adversarial," he says. Instead, "Come prepared with the length [of time] you've been a customer, other offers that competitors are offering, and be prepared to walk away if you don't get the deal you want."

Here are four bills that you can work to lower, and tricks for how to do it.


"A lot of people think your landlord charges whatever their costs are," Sethi tells CNBC Make It "Wrong. Your rent is determined by the market — and if the rental market goes down, you can negotiate your rent down."

For example, the rental markets in New Orleans, Sacramento, Scottsdale, Chicago and St. Petersburg all saw declines in the price during July, according to Zumper's National Rent Report.

The key to negotiating your rent is having a specific price in mind.

"If you walk into a rental negotiation without a number — the rent you want — you're at the mercy of a landlord," Sethi writes on his blog. "When you know what you want, not only can you communicate that crisply to your landlord, you can demonstrate why they should accept less."

To increase your chances, offer the landlord something in exchange, Sethi says, like signing an extended lease, giving up a parking space or keeping the apartment smoke and pet free, even if it is allowed.

"I did this in 2016 with my own rent — in Manhattan," he says to CNBC Make It. "Since rent is often one of the biggest expenses people have, this is a great opportunity to save big. It doesn't always work, but in cases where it does, it makes a significant impact. Imagine if you could negotiate your rent 5 percent or 10 percent down. That's a sizable savings."

Credit card interest rate

A credit card's APR (short for annual percentage rate) is how much interest the credit card company is charging you to spend borrowed money. Sometimes, you can negotiate that cost down, Sethi says.

"If you're carrying a balance on your credit card, the first thing you should do is call your credit card [company] and negotiate your APR down," he writes on his website.

When it works, "you can save a substantial amount. I've had readers negotiate their credit card APR down from the 22 percent range down to the low teens. On a large balance, they were saving a huge amount every month," says Sethi.

But when it comes to something as expensive as credit card debt, Sethi emphasizes that the best plan is to pay it off.

"Search for 'debt payoff calculator' and create a plan," he tells CNBC Make It. "You should know, down to the month, how long it will be until your debt is paid off."

Why having immigrant parents was critical to this finance expert's negotiating skills
Why having immigrant parents was critical to this finance expert's negotiating skills

Cell phone bill

To reduce your cell phone bill, leverage the fact that it's cheaper for your provider to keep you as an existing customer than to shell out the money to attract a new one, advises Sethi.

To do this, you want to talk to the "customer retention" department.

"You can either ask to be switched directly to the customer retention department, or play a game and hope that by asking for 'cancellation,' you're actually transferred to retention," he says. "Play around with a few phone calls and see what works best."

Don't worry that the company will actually cancel your service. "Your account will never get canceled until you say the final word," says Sethi on his blog. "You can negotiate for three hours and walk away if you want."

And there's currently stiff competition in the cell phone industry. Earlier this year, The Wall Street Journal reported that the consumer-price index for wireless phone service (a metric for how much people are spending) dropped 12.5 percent from last year.

"Offers from wireless providers are becoming increasingly extreme," according to the Journal, which could mean leverage to put dollars back in your pocket.

Gym memberships

Like phone companies, "gyms don't want to lose you," Sethi tells CNBC Make It.

If you live in an area where you can choose among many different gyms, use that.

"Call them once a year to ask about special offers and tell them what your other options are," he advises. "Ask them what the best deal they can offer you is."

Or ask for a first month free as a trial period, or try to negotiate initial start-up fees, suggests Consumer Reports. Also, if there are amenities like childcare or classes you won't use, ask if you can pay less and skip the extras.

Don't miss: Harvard negotiation expert on how to get everything you want

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These monthly bills are negotiable, according to Ramit Sethi
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