Who thinks Stacy and I are cheap? If you said “yes,” thank you. I am proud of the fact that we don’t pay retail for virtually anything and we are always looking for ways to save money. More importantly, we’re always looking for the best ways to save money and easy ways to save money. Today I want to spend a little time talking about two things you’re either really excited about or scared to death to try: negotiating and bartering.
When to Negotiate
Negotiation isn’t just something that occurs during a hostage situation where the bad guys want pizza, $5,000,000 and a private jet to the Caymans. Negotiation should occur anytime you buy something at a place where there is a chance to save some money. You’re probably not going to walk into a big box store and do a lot of negotiating, but many stores and just about every person is willing to negotiate price if you’re willing to ask. I’ve shared the story before that when we got the final bill for Annie’s birth, the first thing I did was call the hospital and tell them I wanted to pay it in full, but I expected a discount. With no hesitation, they said they’d give me 20% off. Considering the bill was over $1,300, that phone call was worth almost $300. Voila!
Most of you don’t want to spend more than you have to on any purchase. In fact, some of you can’t afford to spend much on most purchases and have to make every penny count. For you, negotiating must become a way of life. If you’re not sure whether the price of a purchase you’re about to make has any wiggle room, ask! When you are preparing for the purchase, simply ask, “I’d really like to buy this but my budget is pretty tight. Is there any wiggle room in the price?” If the answer is no and you have the cash to buy it, go ahead. I guarantee, though, you’ll be surprised how often you’ll be given a discount just by asking. This one question has saved us thousands of dollars. ASK! Your budget will thank you.
When to Barter
If you need or really want something you can’t afford and negotiating doesn’t get you far enough toward being able to buy it, consider bartering. Even though a full-scale barter economy is not very realistic, on an individual level it is a great way to save money. Barter systems have been around forever. You have something I want; I have something you want. We trade. Even little kids understand the barter system. Don’t believe me – hide and watch two kids play together. They’ll “trade” and “share” until they each end up with something they believe is better than what they started with.
Keep it simple. Let’s consider some examples:
- When Stacy and I were struggling to make our gift budget work, we happened to have some friends who were building a house and wanting some built-in cabinets that were going to be EXPENSIVE. They also happened to own a small laser-engraving business. I agreed to build those cabinets (they paid for materials) in exchange for them making us several personalized gifts (we paid for materials). I spent a couple of Saturdays in the woodshop and we got a bunch of Christmas gifts for that year.
- When Stacy went to get her hair cut a few months ago, her hairdresser was VERY interested in her fancy purse (yard sale find). They traded a free haircut in exchange for that purse.
- We really wanted someone to help us stage our home as we were putting it on the market. Our friend Missy (who rocks at staging) traded us these services for one of Stacy’s rockin’ awesome home-cooked meals.
See – simple. Facebook and other social media outlets have made bartering much easier than it used to be. You can post on your wall that you need X and are willing to exchange it for Y. In a face-to-face encounter, you can simply ask the person something like this, “Hey Mildred, I really need some of those lovely hand-woven mullet-warmers you sell but I can’t make that purchase fit in my budget right now. Is there something you need that I could help you with in exchange for a set of your mullet-warmers?” Even though I’m sure the demand for Mildred’s fine products would allow her to sell all she could make, she might be looking for someone who can make her a nice casserole. Trade! If Mildred says no, it’s all good. You tried.
Negotiating and bartering are two creative and easy ways to help make your budget work. If you can’t bring in more income or cut expenses, these ways can help you squeeze a little more out of your money. If you’ve done this before, I’d love to hear how it worked out. If you’ve never tried it, what are you waiting for? Need some financial counseling but can’t afford to pay for it? What could you trade? See how easy it is!?