• Gary Grewal

5 Things You Didn't Know You Can Negotiate



No, no, don't worry. I'm not saying you should try to haggle the price of a latte, especially from our amazing local coffee shops. Though if you find yourself near a Blue Bottle Coffee, definitely duck into one, they are delightful.

Unlike many "financial gurus", you won't find us at Financial Fives chastising you for spending $5 or $6 on an oat milk latte. Little joys here and there are not going to change your life, as long as you are intentionally spending your money on them.

If it's a reward, great. A mindless habit, not so much. Plus, you need a reason to meet up with friends, relax with a *cough, personal finance, ahem * book, and support small businesses.

When it comes to bigger ticket items or purchases where you have options and thus greater power as a consumer, it can pay, literally to prepare for negotiations. You're not going to become a millionaire haggling Patty at her garage sale for $8 off her bar stool, but you might be bolstering your salary by $18,000 every couple of years.

Plus, it's not just your salary or the price of a car (though good luck with that in this frenetic supply chain world we live in). Money can be saved and earned in almost every aspect of life.

When you think about what to negotiate, you want to consider a number of things, such as if it's customary to negotiate, what fixed costs the person you're dealing with has, and what the end goal is for both parties.

You can't go in with a winner-take-all mindset. Be respectful, patient, and understanding. Kindness connects us, and we are humans more than the dollar figures we represent.

1 - Rent

With inflation going gangbusters and horror stories of rent prices skyrocketing, or even doubling in some cities, you might be incredulous and think I'm off my rocker.

Yes, it's true that negotiating rent has been even more difficult these last few years than before the pandemic, however, you will probably have better luck with private landlords than public property management companies that manage urban multifamily buildings.

That being said you can still negotiate with a property management company. There's a chapter dedicated to how to do so in Financial Fives.

Personally, I have experience with getting incentives even above what was advertised by the building when I lived in an apartment. How? Read above. Be respectful, and consider the end goal of both parties!

I offered to sign a slightly longer lease (6 more months) in order to receive additional weeks of free rent. I offered to participate in a feedback survey. I offered to take a compact parking spot.

I let them wait for my response for a few days before they agreed to waive the app and admin fees. I even referred another resident.

If you can help it, try to dig in during your tour and ask about the buildings vacancy rate, this might give a clue as to how competitive they might be with winning you over.

For renting a single-family home, try offering to take the home with a smaller yard or one that backs to a road, or sending comparable homes that you are considering, and then try your hand at the waiting game.

2 - Return Policies

Don't worry, I'm not telling you to cause a scene at Costco if they decline to refund your 96% eaten box of cookies.

What I am saying, is that many retailers, surprisingly, don't even restock your returns. Sometimes, it can cost them more just to have you ship them back and process them, so they just tell you to keep them or donate them.

In addition, let's say the deadline to return something has passed, or you no longer have the receipt. Rather than shrugging and moving on, think of a few things:

  • Can you pull up a credit card or mint.com transaction showing receipt info?

  • Do you still have the tag and applicable labeling?

  • Is the item still for sale at the retailer for the same price?

Many retailers, such as Nordstrom and Dick's Sporting Goods have, in my experience, looked up an item I brought back, without a receipt, and found it was selling for the same price. So, I was granted store credit.

Another few times, I've found myself way outside the return period of 30 days or whatever it is, and just by respectfully making my case, the associates process the return. Retaining customers is not easy, and building brand loyalty takes time. Most companies and not going to lose a good customer for over 50 bucks.

In addition, several times I received a product and didn't open or use it until weeks later, after the chance to return it has passed. Everything from face moisturizer, pillows, shoes, and watches, I have been able to request a replacement, and I was refunded for the original purchase.

3 - Hotel Prices

You guys know I love good hotels. You also know we all like good deals. How to solve this dilemma? How to stomach the $350 per night price when we so badly want to stay at that property with the rooftop pool?

Well, friends, you already know about using points. I'm not going to dive into that as most are familiar, and there are plenty of more established voices in the points field I encourage you to look into.

What I'm saying is you can always call or email the hotel directly. Most of them pay fees to third-party websites to drive traffic to their property, so they might be willing to cut you a deal if you book directly.

Plus, depending on how last minute you can be, many hotels are willing to cut you a corporate or other discounted rate to fill the room.

Aside from the price, with many loyalty programs, you can snag perks like free parking, breakfast, tickets to attractions, and other perks.

If an issue came up, like a noisy neighbor, politely ask if the hotel wouldn't mind waiving parking for your stay, or a similar concession.

When I stayed at a Las Vegas resort for a residency and graduation for my Master's, there was a $30 per night resort fee that covered things like newspapers, coffee, and bathrobes or something.

I asked the front desk staff if they would consider waiving that, as I was in town for business and wouldn't be able to take advantage of most of those perks. After some hesitation, they gladly took it off. A straightforward request saved over $100.

4 - Vehicle Maintenance

There's nothing fun about taking your car in for service, enjoying the random assortment of magazines and salty snacks, only to have the service rep come and say "We had to change out the engine brackets and transmission fluid, so it's going to be another $275."

First of all, never agree to anything without doing your research and shopping around. Second, always check the dealer's website or other dealers within a 50 miles radius for service coupons.

If your car is being worked on, ask them if they wouldn't mind matching the incentive of another dealer. Or, make a case for them to bring down the cost of labor and pay for the part if you volunteer your car to be a secondary priority.

If many other customers are waiting to get out of there, the service center might cut you some slack off your bill if you hang out a few more hours or come back and pick up your car another day.

5 - Home Renovations

This one was a contentious one for me, because the majority of home renovations, at least in my area, are done by small business owners who work and contribute to our community. They live in our neighborhoods, their kids play little league, and we might run into them at the farmer's market.

Still, there is room for negotiation here. Remember, if you are respectful and understanding of the end goal, there is nothing wrong with healthy negotiation. They might have a break between projects and will happily pave a new driveway for you to keep the crew busy.

Some ways to negotiate with home renovations include:

  • Offering to do some of the work yourself (demolition anyone?)

  • Offering to haul away the debris yourself

  • Allowing them to advertise a sign on their lawn

  • Providing a testimonial or referral

  • Buying and delivering the material needed by yourself.

Contractors work hard and are busy people. They are crucial members of our community. If we can make their lives easier by removing barriers to getting the job done on time, meaning they can move to the next project faster or have the crew on the clock for less, that can translate into more money staying in your pocket.

Saving $2,000 on a $30,000 kitchen renovation might not seem like much, but how much did you save by depriving yourself of that latte? Ooh wow, $5?

So, what are your negotiation success stories?

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