They say everything in life is negotiable.
That may not technically be true, as anyone who’s ever tried to argue with the DMV knows. But you might be amazed by just how many things are negotiable.
Sure, you know you can – and should – haggle over car and home prices. But here are 19 other things you can negotiate to walk away with better deals with your employer, utility providers, and anyone else trying to sell you something.
Things You Should Always Negotiate for a Better Deal
1. Employment Benefits
From health insurance to retirement accounts such as 401(k)s and 403(b)s, employment benefits can mean thousands of dollars in savings per year – not to mention lifestyle-related benefits that help you maintain work-life balance, happiness, and sanity. These can include paid time off, flexible working hours, and telecommuting options. And they’re all negotiable.
My friend Ray negotiated a significantly larger apartment when he applied for a job providing basic free housing. I’ve negotiated health insurance coverage and 401(k) matching contributions from employers. For that matter, you can even negotiate and receive health insurance benefits from part-time jobs.
Like any negotiation, the key is negotiating from a position of strength. Don’t show up hat-in-hand, asking for a handout. Use these strategies to negotiate better job benefits – and perhaps a higher salary while you’re at it.
2. Job Title
In my experience, employers prove more flexible in giving out better job titles than better paychecks. One of them is free, after all.
If your employer doesn’t budge on a higher salary or employee benefits, offer them another option to keep you happy that doesn’t cost them any money: a better job title, which positions you to score a higher salary and benefits at your next job.
The fundamental negotiation techniques remain the same. Learn the basics, because they’ll serve you no matter what you’re negotiating.
As a landlord myself, I can tell you that rent is absolutely negotiable. Yes, landlords would prefer higher rents, given a choice. But the rent amount isn’t the only concern they have.
Landlords crave stability and predictability in rent payments. They want tenants who will care for their properties as if they too had hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in them. They want to spend less on repairs, vacancies, and other expenses.
With that in mind, use these techniques to lower your rent payment, even in your current apartment.
4. Mortgage Fees & Interest Rates
I started my career as a loan officer. Like nearly all loan officers, I was paid on commission; the higher the interest rate and fees that I quoted a borrower, the more money I made if the loan settled. The simple fact is that loan officers are salespeople. They have room to drop interest rates and fees; it just means a lower commission for them.
Shop around among several lenders and brokers asking for quotes. The key is not to let them all pull your credit report, as each pull dings your score. Instead, pull your own credit report and ask for an informal rate and fee quote based on your score. When you’ve found the best loan option, you can authorize them to officially pull your report – a necessity for your rate lock.
Shopping around may sound like a pain, but over the life of a 30-year mortgage, higher interest rates can mean tens of thousands of dollars in higher costs. It’s worth an extra hour of your time to make a few phone calls. You can simplify the process by using a company like LendingTree. They will ask you a few questions and then provide you with loan quotes from several different lenders.
5. Home Repairs & Services
Contractors are small business owners. Like salespeople paid on commission, they can accept a lower fee; it just means a lower profit margin.
Get as many quotes as you can, and use the lowest quote to help you negotiate with other contractors if you don’t want to hire the cheapest one. Home repairs routinely cost thousands of dollars, making them an enormous opportunity for savings. Clipping coupons on groceries can save you a dollar here or there, but negotiating home repair bills can save you thousands of dollars in one maneuver.
Try these tips for finding a good contractor and compare bids to help you score the best possible deal.
Pro tip: When looking to hire a contractor, HomeAdvisor is a great place to start. They run criminal background checks and license verification on all contractors. You’ll have the ability to search recommended contractors in your area so you know you’re hiring the best fit.
6. Auto Repairs
Similarly, you can negotiate lower car repair costs with your mechanic. It starts the same way: comparison shopping for multiple quotes. When a mechanic knows you’re collecting several quotes, they price their services competitively. When they think they have you by the ball bearings, expect a markup.
If you can’t drive your car, call multiple mechanics to collect quotes by phone. Granted, you still need to trust that the diagnosed problem is accurate rather than inflated, but it’s better than blindly accepting the first quote you get.
Pro tip: If you want to avoid the auto repair shop altogether, you can use YourMechanic. Through their app or website, you can tell them what’s wrong with your vehicle or ask for a diagnostic. They’ll give you a transparent price quote for the repairs. You can then book an appointment at your home or office and they’ll come to you to complete the work.
First of all, furniture is among the many things you should buy used. It loses most of its value as soon as you own it, even though it doesn’t necessarily lose any functionality or aesthetic appeal. And anything you buy used is, of course, negotiable.
But you can also negotiate the price of new furniture. It starts with – you guessed it – comparison shopping. Look online for the same piece of furniture to find competing prices. Even a similar-but-not-identical piece of furniture can do the trick if the retailer believes they’ll lose your business to a competitor.
Remember, furniture pricing is based on MSRP, or the manufacturer’s suggested retail price. MSRP is always outrageously high to leave large profit margins for retailers.
And negotiating isn’t the only way to save money on furniture. Try these tips to save money on new furniture bought at retail.
The same principle applies to electronics, which retailers also try to sell at a high MSRP. Comparison shop, look for special offers, play one retailer against another, and use all the other standard negotiating tactics for lower prices. But for electronics specifically, you can also try negotiating a lower price for the floor model.
Another tactic you can try is finding out which models are not currently in stock. If the store doesn’t have a particular camera in black, show up and ask for it in black. When they say, “I’m sorry, we don’t have it in black right now, but we have it in red,” come back with, “Red? I really had my heart set on black. I guess I’ll have to order it online – unless you can offer me a good discount on the red version.”
Salespeople want to make a sale today. Make it clear that you’re reluctant and leaning in the direction of a competitor and that the only way you’ll buy from them here and now is if they offer you a sufficient discount.
Lastly, consider buying used or refurbished electronics and skipping the retail circus altogether.
Jewelry, like furniture and electronics, loses much of its value as soon as you buy it. That makes jewelry yet another thing to buy used.
However, as with furniture and electronics, you can often negotiate the price of new jewelry. It’s a stiffer industry than the others, but the fundamental rules of retail still apply. Salespeople and managers want to make sales today, and they know that once a customer walks out the door empty-handed, they don’t usually come back for the same item.
So when high-end jewelry sellers claim that they don’t offer discounts, force them into a choice: either they make the sale on the spot for a discounted price, or you walk out the door. Make a reasonable offer, and make it loud enough for the manager to hear, since the salesperson may or may not be authorized to discount the price. If the salesperson says no, thank them politely for their time and make your way toward the exit. Walk, don’t run; in many cases, the manager will intercept you en route to the exit with a gleaming smile and an invitation to discuss the pricing further.
10. Clothes, Shoes & Other Department Store Purchases
Unlike many of the larger retail items outlined above, salespeople and cashiers at department stores often don’t receive commissions. However, they still know which private promotions, coupons, and other discounts are available. That means it’s no skin off their backs to offer you a discount if you help them feel good about it. Turn on the charm, make friends with them, and express an interest in buying despite being under financial constraints. Ask them if there are any discounts if you were to buy today, and make it clear that you won’t be able to buy if the answer is no.
They get to feel good about themselves twice over: they do something nice for a friendly stranger, and they help their employer make a sale.
11. Credit Card Fees
Credit card companies make their money on interest and fees – but only if they don’t lose good customers over them. Which brings us to the first rule of negotiating credit card fees: Be a good customer. Always pay your credit card balance on time, both to avoid late fees and to keep your credit strong.
If your card charges an annual fee, call a month before the fee is due and ask that they waive it. Tell them you like the card but can’t justify keeping it if you have to pay the annual fee. I have card-juggling friends who get every card’s annual fee waived, every year.
Also, call the company for surprise fees and charges. Explain your case politely but thoroughly and ask for a reduction or for them to waive it entirely. Most occasions when I’ve done this, my entire fee was waived.
12. Cable TV, Internet, Landline Phone
Cable companies run on the subscription model; each customer generates ongoing revenue, and the greatest expense lies in finding and activating new customers. Lost customers don’t simply mean a one-time sale lost, but ongoing lost revenue stretching indefinitely into the future. So cable companies they do whatever they can to keep customers.
Many cable companies maintain entire customer retention departments authorized to offer massive discounts and freebies to keep customers. Call up, tell them you can’t afford to keep paying them every month, and listen as the offers start spilling forth.
13. Cell Phone Plans
The same logic applies to cell phone service carriers. It’s cheaper for them to offer you a discount than to lose you and replace you with a new customer.
Ideally, choose a low-cost phone carrier in the first place. But if you want to stick with your current carrier, call them up and say, “I can’t afford to keep paying this high phone bill every month. Unless you can drop my pricing, I’d like to cancel my service.”
Just like cable companies, most phone carriers authorize their phone reps to offer deep discounts to keep customers paying month in and month out.
14. Website Design
With more developers outsourcing work to cheap overseas labor and development becoming increasingly plug-and-play with existing programs, plugins, and APIs, developers have plenty of room to negotiate and still make a profit.
Start by making yourself an easy and ideal client in other ways. Know what you want and communicate it clearly. Be friendly, polite, and professional. If the developer believes you’ll be an easy client, they typically won’t mind taking a leaner profit margin, especially if they think you’ll provide them with repeat business.
15. Medical Bills
Patients can negotiate medical bills either before or after treatment.
Before treatment, one option is approaching the doctor or dentist and asking what their incurred costs are for the desired treatment or procedure. They may balk at first; in this case, explain that you’re willing to pay a reasonable premium over their cost, but you want to negotiate the price up front. If they refuse, approach another service provider.
In other words, re-introduce transparency into the process.
Another option is simply stating an offer: “Here’s my budget for this treatment. I can pay up front in cash. Can you do it for this price?”
After treatment, the conversation is similar. Keep in mind that many patients – most, in some practices – don’t pay their bills. Medical offices charge dramatically inflated bills to all patients, so the patients who do pay end up subsidizing the patients who don’t. That penalizes responsible people. Since you’re a responsible person and want to pay your bill without being ripped off, call up the provider and make an offer: “I can’t afford to pay what you’re billing me, but I’m willing to pay $X if you close out my account as paid in full.”
It also helps if you can find out what Medicare pays for the same treatment. Usually, it’s far lower than what doctors try to charge you as a retail patient. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services publish fee schedules publicly, but prepare to navigate the confusing world of medical coding to access usable information.
Whatever you do, don’t just ignore medical bills. They’ll go to collections and ruin your credit.
Beyond negotiating, try these strategies to lower your health care costs.
16. Legal Bills
Similarly, lawyers would rather receive a reduced payment now than hire a collections agency and hope to get a small percentage sometime in the future.
Many lawyers also overcharge for services. Scrutinize your bill carefully and look for any charges that seem high. Did they charge you an hour’s time for a 45-minute phone call? Did they charge attorney rates for clerical work?
Know what to expect when it comes to legal costs. Then, call the attorney and ask probing questions about exactly who in the office did what work and how long it took them. Challenge the billing if you feel you were overcharged, and threaten to call your state’s bar association. Push hard for billing discounts and see what happens; the worst an attorney can do is say no.
Art has no inherent value. It’s worth what people are willing to pay for it, which is almost entirely a matter of perception and opinion. That leaves it ripe for negotiation.
Galleries and artists alike often accept lower prices offered by serious buyers. It doesn’t hurt to say a few appreciative words about the piece in question, either. Just make sure that the gallery or artist knows their choice is between two options: a definite sale today for a lower price, or no sale at all.
Unlike most of the items on this list, such as clothes, art can go up in value. But before you overspend on art justifying it as an investment, do your homework on how to invest in fine art to actually earn a return.
18. Event Spaces
Often, the initial quote for event spaces is an inflated price for corporate clients with an actual events budget. Ask for a breakdown of that quote, including individual line items such as food, liquor, and equipment such as speakers and other audio equipment. Some of these line items you may not need at all and can ask for them to be removed. Or you may want them but be able to supply your own at a lower cost.
When in doubt, tell event space providers that you’re interested and looking to put down a deposit within the next few days, but the price is higher than you can afford. At this point, many providers say, “All right, let’s try to find a number that works.”
And, of course, don’t be afraid to keep looking until you find a provider willing to go lower.
19. Hotels & Airbnb Bookings
With hotels, the first rule of negotiation is to speak with a manager who can negotiate back. The average reception clerk doesn’t necessarily have the power to lower rates by much.
Negotiability with either hotels or Airbnb owners revolves around their expected occupancy. In peak seasons or on weekends, don’t expect any flexibility. On a Tuesday in the off-season when occupancy rates are low, something is better than nothing for accommodation providers.
Remember, potential perks go beyond pricing. While a hotel may not be able to offer lower rates, they could offer free breakfast, an upgraded room at no extra charge, or free tickets through the concierge.
Try these additional tips to save on hotels when planning your next trip.
I played a great deal of poker at one time in my life, and the best player I knew had a saying: “Always try to force the other player into a difficult decision.” I’ve found that a similar approach works in negotiating lower prices and greater perks.
Give sellers a choice: Compromise and secure a guaranteed but reduced sale, or lose your business entirely. The harder the choice is for them, the closer you know you are to their best offer. Pit multiple offers against each other, don’t forget perks beyond price, and above all, be willing to walk away.
What have you successfully negotiated in the past? How did you do it?