I’ve been a personal finance writer for several years, and during that time, I’ve interviewed loan officers, mortgage lenders, debt attorneys, financial advisors, credit counselors, insurance agents, CPAs, and others in the personal finance space. I’ve also pored over various reports, surveys, books, and studies on this topic.
There’s one piece of advice that I’d like to spotlight this month: negotiate everything.
Successful negotiations are the key to saving money. Whether you’re trying to lower the interest rate on your credit card, get a better deal or your cable bill, purchase a car, or a variety of other scenarios.
Negotiating Your Cable Bill
You’re incredibly valuable to cable and satellite providers and they don’t want to lose you as a customer. Hawaii-based Sid Sahara used to be a software engineer fort one of the country’s largest TV providers, and he told me that companies spend a lot of money on customer acquisition and it takes a considerable amount of time to get a return that investment.
If you selected the company as the result of a promotional deal, you have a lot of leverage if you call right before the period is over. Why? Because some consumers make it a practice to sign up for promotional periods and then cancel their services when the promo ends. Since your status isn’t certain, you’re at an advantage, according to Certified Financial Planner Matt Becker. He also recommends that you ask open-ended questions, like, “What can you do to lower my bill?” or “What other types of promotional packages do you have?” instead of closed-end questions, such as “Can you lower my cable bill?” which lead to a simple yes or no response, and end the opportunity for negotiating.
And, if you’ve been with the company for a while, you can use that as a negotiation tactic as well. Remind the representative that you have been a faithful customer for a long time, and would like to stay with the company – but a competitor is offering a promotional deal for a much better price. (You need to actually do your research to know what the competitors are offering.)
Negotiating a Lower Credit Card Interest Rate
Credit card interest has the potential to consume a good chunk of your credit card payments. For example, if you have a $3,000 balance at a 24% interest rate, and you plan to pay off the card in 4 years, you would have to pay $98 every month. At the end of four years, you would have paid $1,689 in interest.
However, suppose you could get the interest rate lowered to 18%, and still pay $98 a month. You could pay the card off six months earlier. Also, you would have paid $1,046 in interest, which is $643 less than you would have paid with the original interest rate.
If you’ve been faithfully making your credit card payments on time, it’s worth asking your credit card company to lower your interest rate. If you’ve received credit card offer from other companies, be sure to mention this. While credit card companies don’t want to lower your rate, if they lose you as a customer, they’ll also lose all of the interest they would have earned over the years had you remained with them.
If the representative refuses to lower your rate, ask to speak with the supervisor. If you still don’t get a satisfactory response, wait a few days and try it again. Your chances of success are actually very good. In a survey by CreditCard.com, 69% of respondents who asked for a lower rate succeeded in getting it. Also, 82% were able to get their annual fee waived permanently, and 87% were able to get a late fee waived.
Negotiating with Your Significant Other
A failure to see eye to eye with your significant other can result in financial heartache. A study by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) reveals that less than half of couples have discussed their long-term financial goals as a couple. Only 51% have established a household monthly budget, and 50% admit that combining their finances with a partner who has a different view of savings hinders them from reaching their financial goal. Going overboard on wedding expenses can put a big dent in your financial future. But, so can other types of decisions. For example, if the money is shared, what happens if your significant other makes a unilateral decision to buy a car or a big screen TV, or loan a sibling $1,000, or fly across the country to visit your in-laws every major holiday? These types of scenarios should be discussed and negotiated before they derail your relationship.
Other Negotiating Scenarios
You should also try your hand at negotiating in other areas. For example, when you’re shopping for a car, be sure to do your research – which includes checking the car’s value in the Kelley Blue Book to find out what it’s really worth, before you go to the dealership. Also, don’t reveal how much you’re willing to pay each month. Instead, focus on the total price of the car. Otherwise, the sales person will create a plan that will have you making car payments much longer than you originally intended.
There’s also a Healthcare Blue Book that allows you to compare prices for various medical procedures. For example, the cost of an MRI could range from $330 to almost $2,500 in the same network, and in these instances, shopping around can produce substantial healthcare savings.
Approaching all of your financial situations as a negotiator can help you save money on products and services (and hopefully, result in a less stressful relationship with your significant other).