March Financial Fitness Challenge--Make Money by Asking for It/ March 5th, 2012
We've talked a lot in this column about ways to achieve two primary goals—paying off debt and boosting your savings. It's hard to do both at the same time, especially when funds are already tight. Sure, you can find a buck here and a buck there by being rigorous about your routine spending. When you've already tackled all the obvious little things and still don't have as much financial breathing room as you'd like, it's painfully frustrating to look for still more ways to trim your budget. But there's a potential big payoff from one simple behavior we haven't talked about much: You can make a lot of money just by asking for it.
Talk is cheapIt frosts my cupcakes to get offers in the mail for special prices on bundled services when I'm already a customer of the cable or telephone service provider. Why should new clients get all the perks? As it happens, you often can cash in, too—just by speaking up. Collect those mailed offers for a few weeks and make some notes about your current service and the special offers. Now, call the cable or telephone company and make it clear that you have the attractive option of going with another provider; the tempting offers are right in front of you, after all. Point out that you would be happy to forgo the hassle of making a switch, but only if the service provider is willing to make it worth your while. Now be quiet and wait for an offer. If it isn't what you were hoping to hear, say so. "I'm disappointed that you aren't able to do a little better than that. Perhaps I could talk with your supervisor about alternatives?" Again, be quiet and wait for an offer.
First speak up—then be quiet and wait for the offer.You don't have to make a commitment on this call unless you get an offer that's too good to pass up. Make some notes and say you will call back when you've had time to consider the offer. You might get a call with a sweetened offer before you even can make up your mind. Ask for a time commitment and then monitor your next few bills to make sure that the deal you struck is the deal you actually get. And when the deal is about to expire, say in a year or 18 months, call back and start over.
Squeaky wheel gets the greaseWith a few variations you can replay this scenario in other similarly productive ways. For example, call your insurance agent and ask for a review of your coverage. Point out all the benefits you bring to the table—no accidents or citations, no claims, low-mileage driver, the teenage driver in your household gets excellent grades, smoke alarms in all bedrooms—whatever accurate information might influence a lower insurance premium. If this gets you nowhere, or not as far as you'd like, remind the agent that you'd like to call a few other providers before you renew your policy. And then follow through and make those other calls. It might produce supporting information for your request to the current insurer, or it could lead you to an even better deal. You don't always get what you ask for, but you never get what you don't ask for.
Monitor your bills to make sure that the deal you struck is the deal you get.
It never hurts to askHere are some other ways that speaking up can reward your time:
• Ask for a discount at your doctor's or dentist's office. Especially if you are a private patient, it's a smart idea to see if you qualify for any reduced fees.
• See if a retailer offers discounts for cash. Some merchants will show they appreciate not having to pay for a credit card transaction by passing that benefit on to you.
• Make a haggle play. It might be outside your comfort zone, but the benefits can make haggling feel comfortable in a hurry. For a low-risk opener, all you need to say is, "I was hoping for a better price." As in the cable service example, be quiet and wait for an offer.
• Seize the rate. Today's low interest rates may help you qualify for a home loan, even a car loan, refinance. Talk to a credit union lender about your opportunities.
Financial Fitness ChallengeThe people at your credit union are serious about helping you achieve and maintain financial health. They bring you this website and other tools to help you make the most of your financial resources. The Financial Fitness Challenge continues to look at ways you can make better financial habits no matter what condition the economy is in. ST
Susan Tiffany, CCUFC