How to Negotiate Bills During the Pandemic
As we inch toward normalcy more than a year into the pandemic, many Americans are still dealing with the economic impact it has created. Whether it’s unemployment, reduced income or dealing with the medical bills after suffering COVID, individuals and families are struggling to make ends meet. Negotiating bills during the pandemic is one way to stretch your budget and ease some of the financial burdens. Let’s look at some tips for doing that.
Communication is Key
Creditors can’t help you if they don’t know you’re struggling. Reach out to your creditors and explain that you have been impacted by the pandemic and see what types of relief they’re offering. You may be able to reduce payments, receive temporarily lower interest rates, or skip one or more payments altogether with no fees or negative effects on your credit.
Address Medical Bills
Whether you have medical bills directly related to a COVID diagnosis or you’re struggling to pay other medical costs due to circumstances caused by COVID, you should be able to find some relief. Most hospitals and medical providers offer payment assistance programs for lower-income patients. But even if you don’t qualify for those programs, you should be able to arrange a payment plan or even negotiate to pay just a portion of what you owe, provided you make those payments within a few months.
Check with Utility Providers
The last thing you want to deal with when you’re struggling is having your water or power shut off. Contact your utility companies before you miss a payment to let them know you’ve been impacted by COVID. Depending on where you live and how you have managed your accounts, you may be able to skip a payment without penalties or divide it into smaller payments. If those options are not available, see if your providers offer “equalizer” plans. These plans average out your usage from the prior year and estimate a fixed monthly payment for services. This makes it easier to budget and eliminates the seasonal spikes in your bill from additional heating or air conditioning usage.
Trim Other Expenses
Spend some time looking at other bills such as cable, cell phone, internet, insurance and other services to see if you can negotiate lower rates. Find out what promotional rates companies are offering new customers and see if your current providers will match those rates for you. In some cases, you may be able to drastically cut costs by eliminating some services, such as cutting the cord on cable and moving to a streaming service instead.
If you need assistance with budgeting during the pandemic, our free financial review provides a personalized budget, along with recommended solutions for tackling credit card debt.