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You'll be surprised how many people will strike a deal that saves you money.

3 minute read

I once saved nearly $14,000 in rent over a 15-year period by asking a simple question of the landlord: “Would you be willing to take a little less?”

After bouncing from apartment to apartment for 10 years, I finally found the ideal upstairs duplex back in the early 1990s. The $450 rent was a fair price for the Midwest, and I loved the place. However, I couldn’t afford it. So I asked the owner if he’d consider lowering the rent.

“I could do $375 if you shovel the front porch and sidewalk in the winter,” he told me.

I moved right in, and there was a record snowfall that winter, but I didn’t care. In fact, I lived in that apartment for 15 years until I bought my house, saving $900 a year on rent by negotiating an expense that I’d previously assumed was fixed.

There’s a famous quote attributed to author Nora Roberts: “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” That advice holds true, and my rent negotiation was my first lesson in taking a chance on asking to pay less.

My friend Allie had a similar experience. She wanted an office space that was higher rent than she could afford, so she floated a lower figure by the building landlord and he accepted it, saving Allie around $600 annually.

Here’s some more good news. You can negotiate more than rent, especially when it comes to debt…

  • I once negotiated a big medical bill down from $2,300 to $1,500 by offering to pay a lump sum to get rid of the debt and the person harassing me about it.
  • I struck a deal with my handyman neighbor who traveled frequently to dog-sit his three dogs in exchange for kitchen-update labor that would have cost around $4,000. After figuring in a discounted rate on both ends, our deal came out to 140 days of dog sitting in exchange for renovation labor. It took two years to fulfill my dog sitting obligation, but it was easy work. I walked across the street, fed the dogs, and let them out in the fenced yard while I drank my morning coffee or worked on my laptop.
  • Back in the days when I had no credit cards, made little money, and had no clue how to budget, I sometimes persuaded the independently owned neighborhood pet store to let me have a big bag of dog food on “credit,” meaning I could pay for it the following week when I received my paycheck.
  • When I mentioned (politely) to my favorite coffee shop’s owner that I thought their new coffee refill prices ($2.50) were too high compared to other shops, he told the staff to never charge me for a refill again. That means over the past four years, I’ve saved around $3,000 on coffee refills. And that wasn’t even the result of negotiating. All I did was offer an opinion and the guy paid attention.

If you’re inspired to negotiate your way to saving money, here’s some advice…

  1. Be nice. Don’t make demands or get mad if the person you’ve made an offer to says no. The point is that you ask and hope for the best. I’ve found that when I do ask for a lower price or try to negotiate, I get a favorable result about half the time.
  2. Don’t be unreasonable. If you offer to pay half the rent someone is asking or demand a dollar off your cheeseburger at lunch, you’re just going to annoy people. However, from a money-saving perspective, keep in mind that many restaurants offer lunch or daily specials that beat any negotiated price.
  3. Offer an alternative. Nobody likes someone who wants something for nothing. That’s why I shoveled snow for 15 years to get out of paying $14,000 in rent. For example, if you owe a large bill and want to negotiate a payoff amount, name the amount and find a way to pay it right away. That way, you’re offering a solution to a problem plaguing both you and the place you owe money. Bill collectors want to be rid of you just as much as you want them to be gone from your life.
  4. Be bold. If you have a reasonable offer and a solution or appealing alternative, don’t chicken out at the last minute. Most people admire boldness and initiative.

Remember, if you don’t ask, the answer is always no. And if you do ask, you may free up extra money to pay off debt or start paying cash for things like clothes, phones, music and cars.

So ask. You never know.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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