Four Things You Should Always Negotiate

Six Things You Probably Didn't Know Were Negotiable

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.

Job Perks

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.


Comments

    With the market the way it is in Australia right now, trying to negotiate your rent downward isn't a good idea. They'll just ignore you and take the next people instead. Hell, I've been beaten to places a few times by people offering more than was being asked, not less.

      Another tip is if you get in at normal rent and they try to raise the rent at a 'lease renewal' stage, you can say 'I can't pay extra, but I'd be happy to renew at current rate'. Did this for 2yrs at my previous place before they said no. Then the house was vacant for a month atleast and the landlord lost substantially more money then he would have if he'd renewed at current rate.

        Yeah, that'd likely be much more successful than trying to low-ball the rent initially.

          I don't really know how the rent game works too well, but if you become good friends with the landlord would you be able to eventually ask for slightly cheaper rent?

            Most places I've rented, you barely even see the landlord, let alone interact with them. Normally go through an agent or something.

            Certainly if you were friends with them you might be able to get concessions, but I'd expect they'd still want to put rents up when they're able to, if only to cover council rate increases.

            I pay 10 percent of the rent to a real estate agant to do virtually nothing to manage a property. I also have to wear a vacancy period if you leave. If you were a good tenant and had been taking care of the place and good with the rent I would absolutely be open to an offer if it meant I could cut those costs. But I might not be a typical landlord.

        the Landlord lost 8 percent of the annual gross rent by having it empty for a month, but if they kept renting it to you at the same annual rate, they were losing whatever the market was increasing by annually, and compounding over two years already, meaning they could raise the rent by that much as soon as you were out which represented an additional opportunity cost. It's worth trying, but you can only pull it off for a year or two if they know what they are doing.

          4 weeks rent was 1720. Rent increase was 15/PW so about 700 extra per year. Seems to me like he took a gamble that didn't pay off in the short term.

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