The two important and expensive additions to the household budget of this generation have been the Mobile and Internet bills. You may not realize how much you spend on these utilities (yes – they are no longer luxuries – but utilities) but if you total up your bills at the end of each year, it will be a sizeable amount.
What I realized though earlier this year is that these telecom companies are one of the most ingenious organizations when it comes to fleecing money from their consumers. They are ever so quick to call you with their latest new scheme or an add-on card, but they will never call you if they have a scheme which can reduce your outgo.
Earlier this year a simple 5 minute internet surf got me started on a journey where I will ultimately end up saving almost Rs 20,000 by the time this year ends. I am a self confessed internet addict and travel a lot, so a few years back I purchased the ultimate gizmo for the internet lover on the go – the “data card”. In my case it was Tata Photon. The speeds were really awesome. For those of us who used to jump in joy in the middle of the night seeing a 4kbps transfer speed on our dial up modem – you can probably understand what a 100kbps+ speed felt like. Like most over enthusiasts, I signed up for the best plan(in other words – most costly!) available – Unlimited internet surfing (read 10 GB per month) at 1299 only (when you got the bill you paid another 10% extra – service tax?? anyone). I was comfortably paying almost 1400 each month until that day when I decided to just browse if there were any new plans.
Eye Opener 1 – The same unlimited plan was now costing 1100 per month but I was still getting charged 1300 – so there was a daylight robbery of Rs 200 each month. This is what you get for being a loyal customer. They will pass on the rate increases but never rate decreases. When I spoke to customer care and asked them why they didn’t inform me or offer me new tariffs, they simply said- all tariff plans are posted on their website for consumers.
This discovery got me very annoyed and then I decided to dig deeper into my bills. For the first time in 3 years I really looked at my usage and what did I realize?
Eye Opener 2 – In the last 3 years I had crossed 2 GB of monthly usage only once. So how much did a 2 GB plan cost? – Rs 750 only. If you subscribed for an e-bill instead of a paper bill, you saved another Rs 25 each month. After adding taxes, the bill came to Rs. 800. A straight savings of Rs. 600 per month or Rs. 7200 annually.
Having gone through this experience, I then decided to look at my telephone bills. I was consistently paying between Rs 2000 to 3000 each month. I was in for more surprises here.
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I have been using GPRS on my cell phone almost ever since the telecom companies started offering it. Again I don’t remember when I had last reviewed what I was paying for. I did now and I was in for another eye opener.
Eye Opener 3 – I was paying Rs. 500 for a GPRS plan which gave me 500 MB free usage each month. I went over to the Vodafone website to check out the current tariffs. They were now offering 2 GB usage for only Rs. 299. For all these years of picking up those unwanted calls from Vodafone for caller tunes and additional sim cards – never once did I receive a delightful call from Vodafone telling me that I was paying too much for GPRS. I immediately switched to the 299 plan. Another Rs 200 savings per month (Rs 2400 annually).
But the fun didn’t end there. I was speaking to a friend who told me that one of his friends who was also a Vodafone customer was only paying Rs. 99 for 2GB. I was flabbergasted. Another phone call to this friend revealed his master trick. Time for the next eye opener
Eye Opener 4 – The friend told Vodafone that most other companies (mainly their chief rival –Airtel) was offering 2 GB at only Rs 99 – so why should he pay 299? When they did not budge, he said those magic words – Mobile Number Portability. Within a short period, his case was sent for special approval and he then got a lower rate. Wow! I decided to give it a shot too – but I was in for a fight. This time actually it didn’t work out too easily. I had two unsuccessful attempts at threatening portability. I then decided to put my money where my mouth was. I sent the portability sms giving a notice for switching providers. Within an hour I received a call asking me why I wanted to switch. I had to negotiate hard. They didn’t give me 2 GB for 99 –but they did give me 1 GB for the same amount. I took that offer, since my phone usage didn’t really cross 1 GB.
So I had gone from paying 500 to only 100 – a further savings of 400 per month (4800 annually).
But did this stop here. No – There was more.
Eye Opener 5 – My talk plan too was old and rusty. I had a 399 plan –where I think I had about 399 minutes free. The new 399 plan gave me 800 minutes free. I also got an unexpected bonus for switching tariff plans. I had been paying Caller Id charges of Rs 75 each month. I learnt that all new plans from Vodafone had stopped charging this amount. I was also paying Rs 75 each month for itemized billing. The new rates were Rs. 50 only. So for 5 minutes of effort it took to change my tariff plan – I was now enjoying double the talk time and ended up saving another 100 rupees per month (1200 annually). My cell phone bills went down by another Rs 500 approx. I also did this for my wife’s connection.
I was now saving almost 20000 each year in these payments for taking a couple of hours to talk to these two services providers and taking a quick look at my usage levels.
Don’t let these telecom companies fleece you of your hard earned money and spend 5 minutes on these company websites every 6 months. You never know what their next best offer is. They are not going to tell you about it. You have to find out for yourself.
You may end up saving more or less than this amount depending on your current usage and service provider but it is sure worth spending a few hours looking at these bills.
Do you know: If you invest Rs 500 per month for 20 years at the rate of 12% – your investment corpus will be Rs 5 Lakh at the end of period. So my yearly savings of Rs 20000 can add Rs 15 Lakh to my retirement corpus. 🙂 Must share your saving tips in comment section.
This is a guest post by Lloyd Pinto – he is our Financial Planning Client from Mumbai. He is Specialist in International Taxation & works for a multinational accounting firm. The views expressed herein are the author’s personal views.