Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate

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Negotiation is a powerful tool that consumers do not use enough. Salespeople know the majority of buyers would rather not engage in haggling over price. Initially, it can be uncomfortable talking about cost and your unwillingness to pay the stated amount. I would shy away from negotiating because I didn’t want to appear as if I couldn’t afford the item I wanted to buy. I was actually concerned about how the salesperson would view me. One day I realized this was a bunch of psychological nonsense. There is a psychology to selling and I was playing right into the hands of the person that wanted to take me for every dime possible. I will offer you this useful advice, if you are scared of negotiating….get over it!

You work hard for your money, don’t give it away easily. As I said, there is psychology to selling goods and services. It is all designed to create a transaction that is most beneficial for the seller. Use the tool of negotiation to make the playing field a little more even. Negotiating is a skill but anyone can master it. It will require that you do a little homework, but the small amount of time you spend doing research can potentially save you a significant amount of money. You will need to gather information from a few different sellers/providers about the price of the goods or services that you are looking to purchase. If the seller/provider that you choose to do business with doesn’t have the lowest price, use the information you gathered to negotiate a better deal.

There are a few rules to remember when negotiating. First, have a predetermined amount that you are willing to spend. Always exhibit confidence and stand firm in your decisions. Lastly, if you don’t think you are getting the best deal or what you want, don’t be afraid to walk away.

There are certain situations that are notorious for negotiating, like buying a car. There are other situations where negotiating can be used as well, such as having work done around your house. I recently tried this myself and was very happy with the outcome.

I needed to have the fence that surrounds my backyard replaced. When having any type of work done it is best to get three estimates so that you can make an informed decision. That is exactly what I did.   I was shocked by the huge difference in the estimates I received, but decided to use it to my advantage.

The three estimates were:

Company A-$3,008

Company B-$2,554

Company C- $1,925

I ruled out the estimate from Company A, because it was significantly higher than the other two. Even if I negotiated a lower price I thought it would still be inflated. I wanted to contract with Company B because I believed they would do the best work. Despite that, I couldn’t  ignore the $629 difference between them and Company C. I wasn’t going to do business with Company B unless we negotiated a lower price.

I contacted Company B via e-mail and attached the estimate I received from Company C. I explained I would like to do business with them but I received another estimate that was significantly lower. I asked that we split the difference between the two estimates and contract for $2,239. I received an e-mail back from Company B, stating that Company C neglected to include the $150 cost of a necessary permit in their estimate. Based on that Company B stated they would do the job for $2,314.

This prompted me to do a little more research and I found out my township didn’t require a permit for the type of fence I was going to have installed. I e-mailed Company B back with this information and requested that the full amount of the permit be removed from their estimate. My request was granted and I was very pleased when we agreed on a final price of $2,155. That was $399 off the original estimate I was given.

I saved all that money because I wasn’t scared to negotiate. I did my homework and I went into the discussions prepared. I did not cave when I received resistance to my first counter-offer. Like with any skill, you will get better and more comfortable with negotiating the more you practice. So don’t hesitate to use negotiation when you can. Don’t forget to share your stories with me. I would love to hear them!

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Money Saving Tips

We all know there are a million and one ways to spend money. There are many ways to save money as well. It takes a little more effort to save but I have tips that can help. You will feel great once you begin to reduce the costs of things you purchase.

  1. Use Coupons!!!!

I must admit that one of my favorite things to do is use coupons. If I can’t use a coupon to purchase something, I don’t really want to buy it. I use coupons for groceries, dog food, clothes, shoes, eating out, movies, books and even appliances. I have the Sunday edition of the newspaper delivered to my house solely for the purpose of getting the coupons. The money that I save far outweighs the cost of the subscription. I also use coupons that are delivered in the mail. For the past few years I have been able to purchase a coupon book called “Kid Stuff”. Many schools sell this coupon book for $25 as a way to raise money. The book has coupons for clothes, groceries, shoes, restaurants and movies. The possible savings makes this book a great investment.

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You may be saying to yourself, “I live a busy life, I don’t have time for cutting coupons”. I am telling you that you do. You only need about 15-20 minutes a week. Buy a coupon organizer and put your coupons in order so that they are easy to find while you are in the store. Keep your organizer in your purse or in your car so it is handy when you’re out and about.

Another great way to get coupons is by signing up for promotional e-mails. I know your e-mail box is already cluttered, but you can create an e-mail account specifically for receiving coupons and discounts. I get coupons for free meals from IHOP and Houlihans each year for my birthday and for my yearly membership anniversary. As a member of an e-mail club you can receive notices about exclusive sales and events. I signed up to be a part of PETCO’s rewards program and I receive e-mails when my dog’s food is on sale. As well as coupons for 10% and $5 off purchases.

2. Membership Cards

Many grocery and drug stores will offer discounts and sales on items if you sign up for a membership card. With the help of technology most stores can use your phone number to access your account information instead of having to scan an actual membership card. This past weekend I needed to buy some vitamins. They were $11.99 for a bottle at Target. I went to Walgreen’s where I have a membership card and I got the same vitamins and same quantity for $9.99. There was a sale for card members and I got a second bottle for free! I also went to the movies this weekend and used my membership card (as well as coupons from the Kid Stuff book), and received membership awards. It included a free movie ticket and small popcorn. Who doesn’t love getting something for free? Since going to the movies is one of my past times, being a reward member is saving me money on an entertainment expense.

3. Periodically Shop for Cheaper Rates on Services

Do not get lulled into paying the same rate every month for the services that you use. If you’ve been using a service for more than a year, check around to see if it is still a good deal. Call you cable provider to see if there are any discounts that you could take advantage of. Or, downgrade if you don’t truly need all of the channels included in your package. Call your insurance company to make sure all of the discounts available are being applied to your account, such as multi-policy discount or a good driver discount. Also if you live in a state where you can choose in energy suppliers check around to see who is offering the best plan for you. In PA you can review electricity suppliers at http://www.papowerswitch.com/.

4. Buy When There is a Sale

I know it may seem like I am stating the obvious, but I am not talking about impulse buying. Once you determine you have a need for something, wait for a possible sale. I have literally painted every room in my house. I noticed that Lowes and Home Depot periodically offer mail-in  rebates for $10 off a gallon of paint and $25 off of five gallons. As a result, I began to wait until there was a rebate offered on paint to make my purchases. I would save about 25% off the cost. Many retailers have a cycle for putting items on sale. For example after the 4th of July summer clothing begins to go on sale. If you stay  relatively the same size you can get good deals for this summer and future summers.

5. Don’t Buy Items Unless There is a Need

We have all seen an ad or walked into a store and discovered a sale that we thought was too good to pass up. A sale is only a good deal if is for items that you need and within your budget. If you have not budgeted for this purchase, don’t buy it. Retailers use psychology to make you believe their product is a “must have”. I have heard many people justify buying things they don’t really need by saying “It was on sale” or “I work hard, I deserved it!” What you really deserve is peace of mind. Knowing that you are financially stable will help you to sleep better at night.

Once you begin to use these tips they will become a part of your lifestyle. As always, I hope you find this information helpful and look out for my next post about increasing your savings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why Don’t I Have More Money?

I know that I said in my last post I would tell you how to create your monthly budget.  Before we do that I want to address a situation that you, amongst many others, may be in. After calculating your monthly disposable income, (by subtracting your monthly expenses from your net monthly income) did it appear that you should be doing better financially than you really are? On paper, do you have money left after paying all of your bills but still fall short each month? If this is the predicament you find yourself in, we need to further exam exactly what you are spending your money on. You are spending more than you can afford and you need to be conscious of where your money is going.

I remember when I did a financial evaluation because I was starting the process of buying a home. I was happy with the final numbers and the amount of home that I could afford. I was also fully aware this was nothing more than my financial picture on paper. My financial reality was slightly different. I had a few bad habits that I knew I was going to have to get under control before I actually purchased my home. I ate out way too much and I was known to frequent the mall a little too often.

To tighten the reins on your spending habits, begin by making a list of things that you have a consistent cycle of spending money on. For example, how often do you go out to eat, to the club/bar, get your hair done/cut, buy clothes or engage in one of your hobbies? If you did not include food, gas (or transportation expenses) as a part of your monthly expenses from the last exercise, include them on your list.  Once you have the complete list, give a dollar amount of how much you spend on these items each month.

Being realistic about your expenses and your spending habits is key to being able to create a budget that works for you and will allow you to stick to it. If you are having trouble figuring out exactly where your money is going, then I want you to track every penny that you spend for one month. Yes, I really did say, every penny for one month. Remember, I said I would help you make your finances simple, however it will take some effort on your part.

To track your spending, you can use your debit card for purchases so that you can have an electronic account of your spending in one place. If you need to pay in cash, keep all of your receipts. To make it easy on yourself, I suggest tallying your receipts each week. Then add up the grand total at the end of the month.

Once you have this valuable information, prioritize how important these expenses are to you. Think of how you can begin to scale back or possibly eliminate expenses. Once again, make sure that you are realistic. If you eat out 3 to 5 times a week and spend about $50, don’t make your goal to stop eating out altogether. Instead make a more realistic goal like eating out once a week with a limit of $15. If you stop each morning before work to grab a $2 cup of coffee, you can start making your own coffee at home. You can save $40 a month on the store bought coffee.

After evaluating your spending and figuring out ways to cut back, if you still don’t have enough disposable income, you need to figure out how to increase your income. Keep this in mind though, for every dollar that you earn you only keep a percentage of it due to taxes that will be taken out. However, you will be able to use the full amount of each dollar that you are able to save by cutting back on your expenses. Therefore, cutting back on your expenses, if you can, will be more beneficial.

Thanks for reading and walking with me towards “Finances Made Simple”. Make sure to check out my next post when I help you to create a monthly budget.

Start Managing Your Money

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There are many conversations that take place around money. The topics range from making money, not having enough money and all the ways we find to spend money. Another topic that needs to be added to the conversation is managing money.  I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance and Marketing from Drexel University, and I understand that thoughts of managing money can be scary. For many the phrase “managing your finances” sparks thoughts of investing in stocks, bonds and other financial instruments. Some believe that this is a science that they will never master and usually shy away. There is no reason to be scared.

You can take small steps in your journey of understanding and mastering your financial situation. You don’t need to aspire to be the next Wall Street superstar, but you can be a successful manager of a household budget. In the past 20 years I have gone from not having 65 cents in my pocket to buy a soda on a hot summer day, to being a financially stable homeowner with a luxury car parked in the driveway. I have learned a lot during this time and I want to share it with you.

I want to start with having you evaluate your current financial state. If you are making more money than you can spend, this blog may not be for you. For the other 99% of America, I have practical tips that can improve your financial situation and increase your quality of life. Yes, I am saying that improving your financial outlook can make your life better. Think about it, what if you could decrease the stress in your life that is associated to money? Wouldn’t your life be better?

I want to help you learn about managing money in a way that may be new to you.  It will take some effort but I assure you that implementing some practical techniques will pay off. So let me help you, make your finances simple!