Tag Archives: negotiations

Unexpected Savings And Deals

I am sort of “in the middle” when it comes to saving my latte money (i.e. couponing/frugality/small savings ). When I read money-saving blogs, I’m equally amazed and a bit confused about the lengths that people go to for free/cheap drugstore goods — multiple transactions, rolling over rewards, coupon tricks, stockpiling etc…  At the same time, I do periodically try to snag deals at drugstores using a combination of manufacturer and store coupons AND sometimes it does take a lot of time/effort.

While I do think that saving big is more important in your overall financial health — learn to negotiate, improve job skills, get a better paying job, invest wisely, don’t buy more house than you can afford, etc.. — sometimes I do have the time and energy to work in small savings.  I still make beginner “mistakes” and forget prices but I thought I write down some recent small savings and see if it makes any difference.

$20 gift card – Olay Rebate with $50 purchase of products, all of which I got on sale at pretty good prices.

$10 gift card – for signing up for online bill payment

$50 cash – for signing up for a savings account. While I don’t recommend opening and closing multiple accounts, this one did not have many restrictions.

$4 in Rite Aid register rewards – I used $2 rewards plus a $1 manufacturer coupon to get a “free” bottle of shampoo.

$6 cash – free meal at Panda Express for buying a $25 gift card.   Panda Express never satisfies my craving for real Chinese food but I know I’ll end up using the gift card.

$20 in Target gift cards – for spending $50 at Target.  I got this deal twice.  In the first transaction, I had to buy a couple of kid toys and spent $61.  In the second transaction (another visit), I bought a large bag of dog food and 2 other items, spending $55 total.   I try to get good deals and stick to my shopping list rather than buy enough just to make the $50 requirement for the gift card.

$15 Ebates check – If you shop online, it’s worth signing up for Ebates or similar service. I don’t know how Ebates makes money but if you go to the ebates website first, then click through to an online retailer, they give you cash back quarterly just for making your usual purchases.

$7 cash – for signing up with the Fresh & Easy Friends loyalty card. I haven’t redeemed it yet but it should be pretty straightforward

$10 gift card – for watching a health care video.

$142 Total. 

Plus, “Bonus” unexpected savings that didn’t give me cash but helped the bottom line:

$25 savings – Found an obscure code on some tech forum that worked and got 1-year of McAfee at an amazingly low price; Previous year I got the entire year free with a little-advertised Bank of America customer promotion.

$12 (value) – one year free subscription to Whole Living magazine for Harry & David purchase.

$17 free haircut – at Supercuts.  You have to get 10 cuts to get 1 free.

$4 in free food  – Many businesses have survey information printed on the end of their receipts. It’s quick to fill out and you get small perks or a chance to win major money.  Plus, it’s your chance to give valuable feedback that actually does get taken into consideration for a store location’s employees.

Lesson learned: Little savings do add up.  However, I find the drugstore game tactics to be more of a headache than even rebates!

All of the above “little savings” is probably my subconscious way to avoid calling my phone company. I need to do that pronto and re-negotiate my rate (again).

Finally, as a reminder to everyone who hates to negotiate, all those little savings also do not compare at all to my recent negotiations at work that resulted in a nice bonus. 

How far do you go to save money?

June 22: Only Negotiate The Big Stuff

Every Wednesday, I’ll (try) to post up a Simple Living Tip, with an emphasis on tips that can be done while living a more traditional 9-to-5 life. 

In an ideal world, you’d negotiate everything from the smallest purchase to salary.  My belief is that we all need to learn to like (love?) negotiations because if you don’t learn this very important skill, you will pay more for almost everything and not be able to leave your 9-to-5 life or even retire comfortably.  Note: Remember these tips are for those who haven’t made the big escape from traditional work life and are more likely to be in urban settings.

However, we all have time limits and some people just hate negotiating so I’m attempting to provide some “rules” that will make negotiating easier and do-able when you have limited time:

  1. Negotiate only on purchases over a certain amount. You decide the amount that is worth it for you but I wouldn’t advise over-haggling on $10 items. 
  2. Negotiate your salary.  If you don’t negotiate anything else, the one thing you should do is negotiate your salary.   This doesn’t only apply to money. You can negotiate benefits such as vacation time or tuition reimbursement, etc.  Despite my introverted nature, I am very proud that I’ve negotiated my starting salary at my current company and this has translated to higher earnings over time.
  3. Make negotiating a fun game. Repeat the mantra “It doesn’t hurt to ask” over and over in your head. 
  4. Pick a negotiations methodby phone, in person, or in writing (email or mail even).  If you really hate negotiating, email is probably the easiest.  I’ve successfully negotiated everything from medical discounts to car prices and even salary via email.  For me, asking in person is the hardest because I think the other person (usually a salesperson) is judging me.  If the amount is big enough, however, I will ask!  Pick the easiest method for you and skip the rest.  Note: For salary, I presented my case via email but at some point, this should involve a person-to-person discussion. 

Do you have great negotiating skills?  Any negotiating/simple living tricks? Share your success stories and inspire the rest of us!

Just Ask! Pushing My Luck Saves Me Money

I’ve been wimping out on my Just Ask! Negotiations challenge.  After a recent small victory over a $40 bill, I haven’t called the cable company to re-negotiate and I was this close to not asking for a fee waiver that would save us $140.  Why? Because I have a lot of pride and the vendor has been more than generous with discounts and fee waivers of late. True, this vendor has gotten a lot of our hard-earned cash this past two years but I still didn’t know if I should push my luck by asking once again.

Well, I sent off a short email.  I thanked them for their work and cautiously broached the subject. They quickly waived the $140 fee.  Success!

One of these days I should add up the savings due to my Just Ask! mindset.  Off the top of my head, I saved about $1,000+ on car repairs, at least $2,500+ in medical-related costs, and a good chunk of change for service providers like cable and phones.  Although not officially part of this self-challenge, my husband has also saved us money by asking for discounts here and there. 

As I mentioned, sometimes (oftentimes) my resolve waivers.  However, this blog holds me somewhat accountable and my string of successes reinforce the importance of asking. Lesson Learned:  You may think you’re pushing your luck, but it’s all in your head.

Yet Another Exciting Edition of Carnival of Money Stories

The Carnival of Money Stories is up at My Journey To Millions!  It’s a great way to discover a variety of interesting bloggers and finance-related stories.  I’m happy that my latest negotiating story made the cut!

Just Ask…The Friendly, Loyal Customer Way To Negotiate

Since last year, I’ve challenging myself to negotiate, or just ask, for discounts and deals.  While I thought this would be a straight-forward challenge,  I’m realizing that there are many, more things to learn in my mission to become a master negotiator.

My two recent successes are:

1 ) Time Warner Cable – Got free DVR service for 3 months ($15/mo savings)

2 ) Verizon DSL – Knocked $11/month off high-speed DSL, without signing up on a new contract or bundling

I’ve had mixed results with both of these companies.  Sometimes I get a discount; other times their Customer Service representatives have stood firm.  Before calling, I always arm myself with ads from their latest promotions and competitor offers.   I start off as polite but I admit that I am usually very ready to get mad or indignant. 

This time was different. 

My new approach? While I did have competitor offers on hand, I was in a much more friendly mood.  I told them about better offers from their competition.  Then I listened as they rattled off all the benefits of their company, tried to get me to bundle my services, and told me all the ‘bad’ things about the competition.  I expressed my disappointment that long-time, loyal customers never get the best deals.  At that point, both Reps decided to “see what they could do for me” and gave me the discounts.   I just wish that Time Warner would offer a discount without the pathetic 3 month limit.

I’m not 100% sure if my new approach will always be more successful. A lot will depend on the individual customer service representative.  Maybe the most important fact is this:  I felt like I had a human conversation with a nice, helpful person.  Plus, I don’t dread having to call Time Warner back in 3 months to “see what else they could do”.  If you’re the type who dreads negotiating, this friendly approach might be best for you.

Evil Health Insurance Company, Why Do You Bother Denying My Claims?

Over the past three years, I’ve gotten quite good at battling my health insurance company, or hereforth known as Evil Health Insurer, for their denial of office visits and diagnostic tests recommended by my doctors.  I have to thank the internet for my newfound expertise. When my insurer first denied a legitimate visit to a specialist, I did some research and found very helpful tips on letter writing and on navigating the process in general.  Using these tips, I wrote a letter and included documentation to back up my claims.  A month later, they said I was correct and paid for the visit.

Since that first victory, they’ve denied various claims (for the same medical condition) at least four times. I’ve lost count.  Each time, I pull up my letter template…yes, I now have a handy insurance letter template…fill in the blanks, and re-attach supporting documentation from my benefits manual.  I recently won my latest battle and I admit that I’m feeling cocky enough to post about this. I want to say or shout from the rooftops:

Dear Evil Health Insurer,

You may screw over millions of people just when they need healthcare the most but you’re not screwing me. In fact, the next you see a letter from me, why don’t you just approve the claim without re-reviewing the case because you know I’m right!!!

Or better yet, why don’t you stop denying legitimate claims in the hope that the victim is too illed, too uneducated, or too busy to fight back?  I truly cannot believe that each denial is an honest mistake. I saw Michael Moore’s “Sicko” and have read enough horror stories to know that this is simply how most insurers conduct business.

Hopefully this post will become irrelevant if healthcare reform actually goes through. In the meantime, here are my tips if you ever get denied:

1 ) Your letter should not be emotional.  Be as factual as possible. Throw in legal-ese if you can!

2 ) Send your letter via certified mail. Don’t bother calling more than once. A paper trail is critical.

3 ) Back it up! Copy pages from your benefits manual that support your claim.

4 ) Keep a copy of your letter and use it as a template if/when you are denied again in the future. This saves a lot of time and makes the process less of a headache.

You can also ask your HR department for help if you’re not able to resolve this on your own. Remember, most people don’t fight back and insurers know this. They are more likely to approve your claim if you’re one of the few who bother to fight back. I don’t know if fighting back counts in my “Just Ask! Negotiations” challenge.  After all, my company and I pay for health insurance and expect legitimate expenses to be part of the deal. It’s not the same as asking for a better deal on rugs or shoes.

I’ve left out the name of this Evil Health Insurer because they’re all pretty much the same so I don’t feel the need to single them out by name

Just Ask…Saves Us $1,200

This Just Ask! Negotiations experiment is becoming quite a learning experience.  Basically I’m challenging myself to “just ask” for discounts and deals whenever possible.  This is not as easy as it sounds because it’s not really in my nature to ask.  If I’m expecting negotiations, in the case of car purchases for example, I am prepared and eager to go.  However, if an unexpected opportunity comes up, I usually let it go.  I probably should carry around a big “Just Ask” post-it note with me at all times.

This recent success  taught me that it’s okay to ask more than once, even if you already got a discount.  Normally I’m so happy to get one discount that it never occurs to me to ask again.  That would be pushing my luck, right?  However, situations can change and therein lies the opportunity. 

Recently, a medical clinic caused me a minor inconvenience.  It was minor in the grand scheme of things but at that moment, it seemed like a big roadblock.  The doctor had already offered me a 20% discount on the procedure plus an additional $300 off.  At the urging of a good friend, an expert bargain hunter herself, I sent off an email expressing my frustration and asked that they “do something” to compensate me.  I truly did not know what to expect, hence my wishy-washy request.  At most I expected them to increase the discount.  Instead, they offered to give me a full refund — a $1,200 savings!

A similar thing happened to my husband, too. In his case, he had a serious complaint about an unscrupulous web-hosting company.  After several emails back-and-forth, he won. Many would have given up but he was fighting back on principle and to save us some money.  I’m very proud of him.

So I’m learning that it’s okay to ask more than once, hesitation is a great negotiating tool, , and negotiating opportunities are everywhere.

An Aside: Some people may wonder why I lump negotations under the Simple Living category.  The art of negotiations is definitely not so simple and, as I’m learning, there is always room for improvement. However, without solid negotiating skills, you’re going to lose out financially in many situations whether it’s the cable company, auto repair or home buying.  Those are big money leaks that could compromise your ability to enjoy a simpler, better life.