If you've ever bought a car, you probably did a little haggling. We're used to flexing our negotiation muscles for things like vehicles and salaries, but there are a number of other expenses that are perfectly negotiable, if you'd only try. Here are four of those costs and how you can negotiate them.
Picture: Tara Jacoby
Credit Card Rates and Fees
If you carry any credit card debt, a high interest rate can be a huge pain. It can make it really hard to get out of that debt, which is why it's important to come up with a pay-down debt plan. In the meantime, negotiating a lower interest rate is possible.
Just call your credit card company and follow a script like this one:
"Hello. Lately, I've been really having to stretch my finances to make the monthly payments on this credit card, and I need to reduce the interest rate somehow. It would be convenient to keep the balance on this card, but I have some other options that could really save me some money — a zero interest balance transfer offer is sitting right here, for one. Could you reduce the interest rate on my account to, say, 9.9 per cent?"
Basically, you want to make sure you convey that you're a good customer and that you're having trouble making your payments with the current rate. Be kind but firm.
You might even consider saying you're thinking of transferring your balance to a card with a better rate. Obviously, it's not guaranteed that they will give you what you want, but it's easy enough to call and ask.
Similarly, if you carry a rewards card with an annual fee, you can call and ask for that to be waived too. A couple of our readers confirmed this works; they call their credit card company annually, say they're thinking about cancelling, and when they're transferred to customer retention they simply ask for the fee to be waived.
Your Monthly Rent
It makes sense to focus your money saving efforts on the most expensive areas in your budget, and housing is probably your biggest expense. If you can successfully negotiate rent, you're golden. And negotiating rent is more common than you probably think. As one industry insider explained:
Up until a few months ago, I managed all sorts of apartment complexes — and I'll clue you in on something: at every property, particularly large complexes, there is an absolute lowest amount of rent they can charge for an apartment. Market rent is usually $50 - $200 above that amount monthly. When you tour an apartment, always tell the manager/leasing agent that your budget is about that much LESS than what they're quoting you, and mention that you've looked at a couple other places that are just as nice/convenient/whatever that fit that budget. They will come down on the monthly rate. They budget for concessions every month to get people to move in. You talk them down $100/month and sign a year lease? Bam, $1200 saved.
Of course, your mileage will vary on this one depending on where you live and what demand looks like in your area. But there are a few pointers to keep in mind if you're going to try to ask for a better deal:
- Offer to prepay for a few months in advance (if it's not going to set you back financially, of course)
- Offer to sign a longer lease
- Offer to exchange work, like mowing and maintaining your own lawn, for a reduced rate
I can attest that this works, and I live in big city where pretty much everyone rents. When I moved into a new apartment in my building, I asked for a lower rate than was advertised, and the management company agreed as long as I signed a longer lease. It's definitely worth asking.
Coupons and Discounts
If you're up for it, you can try haggling better prices at major retailers like Costco.
Price matching is an easy way to do this, although it's not truly negotiating, because many stores offer official price match policies. Beyond that, you'd be surprised what you can actually negotiate at mainstream retailers, especially if you're shopping for big-ticket items like appliances. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Negotiate beyond price: If you're buying a new lawnmower, for example, try negotiating add-on items: a gasoline can, engine oil or a new lawnmower blade.
- Look for damaged goods: Coffee table has a dent in it? Small hole in a t-shirt? Damaged packaging? It's always worth asking for a discount if the item you're buying is flawed or damaged in some way.
- Find floor models or open box items: They're usually already discounted, but store managers might be willing to let them go for an even better price.
And then there are free shipping thresholds: that thing where retailers offer free shipping, but only if you spend $50. That's negotiable too.
When you're shopping online, pop open a chat window, if available, and tell the customer service rep that you really want to buy Item X, but you can't swing it without the free shipping. Many retailers will offer you a different free shipping code then and there.
We've given you all sorts of tips for negotiating salary, and if those don't work, try negotiating other perks. There's only so much your boss can do about the company budget, but he or she might be able to work with you on employee benefits. Harvard Business Review suggests negotiating your holiday time, for example. You'll want to be specific in your offer:
Tom asks his boss to either reconsider whether the company can offer a pay raise with his promotion or instead think about giving him extra time off immediately and a promise to revisit the pay issue when the company's financial situation has improved. Jennifer also presents two options to her manager: first, a staggered vacation plan that would keep her team fully functional while members are out and, second, a new policy that would allow her reports (and possibly others) to tack vacation days on to the business trips they will take in the coming year.
There are a few other perks worth negotiating too, such as:
- Job title: It might sound trite, but a better title can help with your long-term career goals.
- Project placement: Asking your boss to take on specific tasks can give you a better sense of autonomy and job satisfaction.
- Flex time: Working remotely can make a big difference to your weekly schedule and job satisfaction, even if it's just a day a week.
Also, some employers make it seem like negotiating salary is never an option (especially if it's your first job), but it's always worth trying, even if seems pointless. For example, when a friend of mine asked for a higher salary for a seemingly non-negotiable rate, the company told him the rate was set, but they later called him back and offered flex time.
If you don't have any work experience, you can still try asking. Just prepare yourself with research, and focus on your skills rather than experience when making your case. Maybe you acquired these skills in an internship or a part-time job. When asking for a higher salary without work experience, focus on these skills and how you've honed them.
If there's a lesson here, it's that it doesn't hurt to ask. You might be surprised at what you can get just by speaking up. Sure, not everything is negotiable, and you don't want to be pesky about it, but there are a lot of expenses you can save money on with a little haggling.