Looking over our income from the last several years, I noticed what many Americans have probably noticed: my husband and I have not had cost of living increases and only one raise. Just this year Paul received a cost of living increase and I was given a merit raise (hurrah!). Even though we are both very grateful for having jobs, we can’t help but feel as though our incomes are treading water in the face of inflation  at the pump, grocery store, and many other expenses.
So what should we all attempt to do? We should attempt to increase our cash flow as if we had gotten that raise or COL increase by getting our service providers to decrease our cost. This isn’t a “make do with less” article, but rather an article about increasing your cash flow like a raise would have done. Don’t get less of something, just pay less for it. Companies do it with their suppliers all the time. They continually ask “what’s the best you can offer me?” and are not afraid to move on if they can slice their cost for the same (or better) service elsewhere. This allows them to stay lean and mean in the face of constant competition.
Not sure where to start? Here is a list of service companies and my own experience or those of my friends/family with having costs lowered for each. You never know what you can get unless you ask (and the worst they can say is “no”).
I have to drive vehicles owned by our state as part of my job and so they offer a safety driving course each year (with the requirement that we must take it once every three years). After this last time, I called my car insurance company up and was pleasantly surprised when they gave me an 18% discount on our current premiums! The price discount is good for three years. Even if you don’t have the chance to take a free course through work, you might want to price a course and call your insurance company to price the potential discount to see if it is worth it. If you have been with a car insurance company for several years and they are unwilling to give you a discount, you may wish to shop around . When I had my friend call my insurance company for a quote, she got better coverage for $450 less per year! Not only that, but she was able to sign onto AAA  for $10 per six months whereas she had been paying $50 per year on her own.
Read more: 11 Ways to Save on Car Insurance 
When we first purchased our home my husband quickly found us a policy for closing day. After settling in, I took on the challenge of lowering our cost. Once again, not only did I save us $500 per year, but the new policy covered the foundation and the old policy (we found out) did not!
Read more: How to Save Money on Your Insurance Renewal 
Refinance the Mortgage
We refinanced our mortgage  this year in order to pay off our loan in 15 years instead of 30. As such, our monthly cost increased by $200 (you won’t hear us complaining; we went from 5.5% to 3.5% , chopped off 13 years of payments, and only had $400 in closing cost fees). However, if your original loan was a 15 year loan and if you have good credit, discuss refinancing with your current loan provider or another in order to see how much less you could be paying per month (there are other reasons to refinance as well ). Ask about lender’s credit towards the closing costs like we received, or otherwise for a free closing. Make sure you understand whether or not it is truly free, or if the costs are just being rolled into the mortgage.
Read more: Did You Know You Can Negotiate Closing Costs? 
Ask for Lower Rent
In the months leading up to your apartment lease expiration, ask your landlord for a rate decrease. Perhaps with such low interest rates  the landlord is losing tenants to homeownership and having trouble filling apartments. You could offer to sign a two-year or three-year lease for the lower rate (our former neighbors did this and were paying $100 less per month than we were in the same building).
Read more: 16 Ways to Lower Your Housing Costs 
Cable companies run specials to lure new customers in all the time. Even if you have no other choice for cable/internet providers in your area, call your company and talk to a customer service rep in the “cancellation” department. I’ve heard that some people get several months for free, and others receive between $10-$40 knocked off of their monthly bill for the next year. This will vary greatly between companies, but it is definitely worth a shot.
If you are living in an apartment, or in close proximity to a neighbor, ask to split the cost of their wireless internet connection. We did this with our previous neighbors and both enjoyed internet for half the cost.
Read more: Share Expenses with Friends to Cut Costs 
What are some ways you have increased your cash flow besides a pay increase? Please share below so that we can all benefit!