Most people hate junk mail, but what if every time you dropped it in the garbage, you were also potentially throwing out hundreds of dollars in savings? That's exactly what you may be doing.

One of the saving secrets that a lot of people don't realize is that many monthly bills for services such as cable TV, Internet access and phone service are negotiable. If you're paying the going retail price for any of these services, you may be paying too much.

Most service industries are extremely competitive and you will often receive notices in your junk mail about competing services that are offering great discounts to try and get you to switch. While most people see those offers as junk mail, they can actually be leverage to getting a better price on your current service.

Since it cost service industries a lot of money to obtain each customer, most do not want you to leave for the competition. In order to keep you, they will often match the competition's offer or reduce the amount that you have to pay. All it takes to get these discounts is a phone call to the service.

While it isn't essential to have a competitor's offer to get the discounts, it usually makes it a lot easier. Here are the steps that you take:

  1. Call the service.
  2. Immediately ask for the cancellation department.
  3. Explain that you like the service and you really don't want to switch, but you have just received a great deal from the competition. Explain the deal and name the competitor -- your service should be aware of it, because they keep tabs on one another.
  4. Ask nicely if they can reduce the amount you are paying for the service, so you don't have to switch. If they can, they will. If they can't, they won't.

It's important to go directly to the cancellation department from the beginning, because the staff there has much more latitude to give discounts. In fact, they could very well get a bonus for retaining you as a customer, so they will do their best to do so.

When you call, don't give an ultimatum that if you don't get a discount you'll switch, unless you really mean it. The ultimatum will not usually change whether you get the discount. By keeping your options open, you can simply say that you need some more time to think if you don't get the discount you want.

It's important to note that you won't always get a discount. It's much easier to get discounts in areas where there is fierce competition, but it works a surprising amount of the time. If they don't give you a discount, you can always switch to the competition to get a better rate or try again a bit later.

Junk mail is just one place where you may find these competing offers. You should keep your eyes open for them in a number of other places as well, including newspaper advertisements and TV commercials.

Even when you don't have a competing offer, you may still be able to get a discount. Simply say that the cost of the service is too expensive for you at the moment and you are considering canceling. Then ask them if there is any way they can help.

An important factor to remember is that any discount you do receive will be a short period of three months or so. You will not be notified when the rate jumps back up to normal, so you need to mark it on your calendar. When this happens, repeat the process again.

The hardest part for most people is making that first phone call, but it is well worth their time. In a roughly 10-minute call to each service, most people can save hundreds of dollars a year on service fees over what they would normally pay.

Jeffrey Strain has been a freelance personal finance writer for the past 10 years helping people save money and get their finances in order. He currently owns and runs SavingAdvice.com.

More from Opinion

Tencent Music's Cool Market Reception Says a Lot About Investor Sentiment Now

Tencent Music's Cool Market Reception Says a Lot About Investor Sentiment Now

Former Trump Legal 'Fixer' Michael Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

Former Trump Legal 'Fixer' Michael Cohen Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison

The Real Reason Donald Trump Appears When You Google 'Idiot'

The Real Reason Donald Trump Appears When You Google 'Idiot'

Facebook's Search Test Is a Reminder of Its Untapped Revenue Potential

Facebook's Search Test Is a Reminder of Its Untapped Revenue Potential

Tuesday Turnaround: Google Gets Grilled

Tuesday Turnaround: Google Gets Grilled