Most people know you shouldn’t pay the sticker price on a car and that it’s important to negotiate a job offer, but there are plenty of other things you can haggle for that you may not know about. From high-end jewelry to medical bills to big-ticket furniture items, you could be paying way more than you need to without even realizing it.
What companies and marketers don’t want you to know is that almost everything is negotiable. If you’re new to negotiation, there are some key things to keep in mind that will apply to almost any situation no matter the good or service. Brush up on some general negotiation tips first, then read on to learn how to negotiate some specific costs.
1. Credit Card Rates & Fees
The high interest rates that come along with most cards can make it hard to claw your way out of debt. However, you do have some options as you work to pay off your balance. For example, did you know you can call the credit card company and try to negotiate a lower APR?
How to Negotiate This
Call your credit card company and explain that you’ve been stretching to make the monthly payments and need to reduce the interest rate somehow. Explain that it would be convenient for you to stay with them and keep the balance on their card, but that you’re considering other cards with lower interest rates. Then ask them if they can reduce the interest rate on your current account.
Be sure to convey that you’re a good existing customer, but you’re having a hard time making the payments with your current rate. Be courteous but clear: You want them to lower your rate, or you’ll consider transferring your balance to a different card with a better rate and closing your account with them. Most companies would rather keep an existing customer than lose them to a competitor.
If you pay off your balance in full each month and don’t have any credit card debt, but you use a card with an annual fee, you can also try to negotiate that fee. Many rewards cards have a fee that can range anywhere from $30 per year to thousands, depending on the rewards. If you’re interested in the perks but can’t stomach the annual fee — or if you had the fee waived in an introductory period but are now facing paying the full amount — call and ask if the fee can be waived or reduced.
If the answer to that query is no, ask for bonus perks or points instead. Again, it’s much more cost-effective for these companies to keep an existing customer than to recruit new ones, and they’ll do a lot to keep you happy.
Here’s something most landlords and property managers don’t want you to know: The amount of rent they charge each tenant varies, and they usually have a bit of leeway on the monthly amount they quote you when you tour the property. It’s worth trying to negotiate if you’re looking for a new place to rent. Even saving $50 a month will add up to $600 over the course of a one-year lease.
If you’re renewing your lease and the landlord wants to increase your monthly rent beyond what you can — or want — to pay, you may be able to negotiate that amount too.
How to Negotiate This
If you’re touring new apartments, tell the landlord or leasing agent that your monthly budget is between $50 to $150 less than they’re quoting you, depending on your budget and the rental market in your area. Then mention that you’re looking at a few other places nearby that also fit your criteria and include many of the amenities the place they’re offering has, but that you’d rather stop looking and rent from them if you can agree on the amount. You can also offer to sign a longer lease, such as an 18- or 24-month lease instead of just one year, thus locking in your monthly rent for two years instead of one.
If they won’t budge on the rent, you can try to ask for them to waive any move-in fees, pet deposits, or other costs that can add to your moving expenses. If you’re handy, consider offering to work for a reduction in rent. Many landlords would happily save on lawn maintenance, yard work, or shoveling snow in the winter, so if those skills are in your wheelhouse, consider exchanging work for a better rental rate.
Finally, try to negotiate other perks, such as free parking, guest parking passes, storage space, or reduced pet fees. The answer may be no, but it never hurts to ask.
3. Big-Ticket Household Items
Expensive, big-ticket household items like large appliances and furniture can be a real drain on your finances, especially if you have to buy them all at once. If you’re buying a new house or thinking about remodeling your kitchen, it can pay to plan ahead and price compare for these expenses. If you find yourself buying an entire house’s worth of new stuff, negotiate everything and you could realize some serious savings.
How to Negotiate This
Before you even begin negotiating, make sure you know the store’s price-matching policy. Many stores advertise price-matching guarantees, but even if the store you’re shopping at doesn’t, it’s worth asking. Pull up the competitor’s price on your smartphone or print it out at home and come prepared with that information. Be sure that the make, model, and color are the same, which is usually a requirement for price-matching.
Alternatively, if you’re confident you’ve already found the lowest price but still want to negotiate, ask the sales associate if that’s the absolute best deal they can offer, and then stop talking. Simply smile and wait for them to respond, and you may be surprised by what they offer.
If they say they’re not authorized to give discounts, ask to speak to someone who is. If the appliance model that’s in the store isn’t the color or exact product you were looking for, but they don’t have your preferred item in stock, this can give you bargaining power too. Most retailers would much rather give you a discount than lose your business to a competitor.
If they aren’t willing to budge on the price, ask for extras such as free shipping, delivery, or installation or a free or extended warranty. If there are accessories that you’d like, such as an extra new blade for a lawnmower or a full propane tank for a grill, ask if they can throw those in for free if the price isn’t negotiable.
Other options to consider if you’re shopping on a budget are floor models, damaged goods, and open-box items or items without their original packaging. For example, if you’re looking at a washing machine display model with a ding, scratch, or other imperfection that doesn’t bother you, ask if they’re willing to give you a discount. These items are usually less expensive to begin with, but you can often get them for below the stated price.
4. Medical Bills
Almost 25% of Americans say they have trouble paying medical bills. If you’re struggling to pay your medical bills, or if you feel you’re being charged for a test or procedure that should be covered by your insurance, it’s worth it to try to negotiate the amount to see if you can get that number reduced.
How to Negotiate This
First, do a little research so you understand what you’re being charged for and the average price for this expense in your area. Look at a site like Healthcare Bluebook, a free guide for fair health care prices, to see if the price you’re being quoted is higher than the average. Most of us have no idea how much something like a routine blood test or dental checkup should cost, so arming yourself with this information is crucial.
Then, call your doctor’s office, the hospital billing department, or your insurance company to get an explanation of the price and see if it’s negotiable. If you’re having trouble paying the full amount, ask for a reduction in fees or a monthly payment plan. Health care providers would much rather get some payment than no payment from a patient.
If you feel the amount of a bill is unfair or inflated, you can try to negotiate that as well. For example, a few years ago, I got food poisoning while on a trip and had to go to a minor emergency center that was out of my insurance company’s network. Sure enough, a few weeks later, I got a bill for thousands of dollars because I had failed to go to an in-network provider.
I contacted the billing department and explained that because I had been on the other side of the country when I needed health care, there were no in-network providers in my geographic region. The billing department filed an appeal on my behalf, and in the end, I didn’t owe a dime. If it looks like you were charged for a test or procedure you feel should have been covered, or if you didn’t understand it wouldn’t be covered when you chose to have it, it’s always worth it to ask for a reduction in cost or a courtesy price waiver.
Finally, if you have a scheduled procedure you know will be costly, ask the billing department or manager if you can pay in full or prepay the amount in exchange for a discount. I know of folks who have prepaid for planned cesarean sections and paid in full ahead of time for laser eye surgery, all for a discount ranging from $50 to $500 off the original quoted bill.
5. College Tuition
There are a number of ways to pay less tuition than the sticker price quoted by a university. News outlets have reported that as much as 88% of students don’t pay the full price of their private university’s tuition. So, how can you or your child get in on this game?
First, before you start negotiating, make sure you’re taking advantage of any benefits and discounts you may qualify for off the bat. For example, if you or your spouse work at an institution of higher education, your dependents may be eligible for at least a portion of tuition remission to that school or any number of partner schools. Almost 90% of colleges and universities in the United States have some form of tuition remission, although it varies in scope from institution to institution. Read the fine print and talk to your Human Resources department to see if you or your dependent qualify. Second, if you or your spouse are a veteran and haven’t used up all your GI benefits, you or your children may be able to use some of them toward tuition.
How to Negotiate This
Once you’ve explored all the outside options for reducing the tuition price, talk with the admissions office about your acceptance packet. Ask if there are scholarships or grants your family may qualify for to reduce the final price tag. If your financial situation has changed recently, be prepared to discuss any hardships or large bills and changes in finances that may qualify you for a discount. The FAFSA your family filled out almost two years prior, which helps determine your amount of financial aid, may be woefully out of date. Have updated financial and tax information at your fingertips in case you’re asked to demonstrate new need.
If more than one person in your family is currently attending the institution, ask if a family discount is possible. Institutions often offer family or even legacy rates. If you’ve been accepted to multiple schools and have your heart set on one but a better offer from another, ask if your dream school can match what you’ve been offered from somewhere else. You don’t have to frame it as a negotiation; just politely share that you would rather attend their school but the numbers are working against it.
Admissions and financial aid offices have a lot of leeway in what they’re able to offer students, and you want to ensure that you’re getting the best value possible. If negotiating for college tuition makes you uncomfortable, remember that it’s much easier to reduce your amount of student loan debt up front than to work for years to pay it all off after the fact.
As with big household items, buying pricey electronics can do a number on your budget. However, if you can work to reduce the sticker price and negotiate a better deal, you can save a pretty penny in this category.
How to Negotiate This
Do your research. Once you know exactly what model of a new television you want to buy, search online to see who is offering the best price. Then, when you’re in the store, you can ask about price matching for that item.
If you want to take your research skills to the next level, find out what the store is lacking and then use that information to get a better deal. For example, if you want a specific TV in silver but the store only has the black version, let them know that you really wanted it in silver but you’re willing to settle for what they’re offering if they can cut you a deal. They’d often much rather give you a discount than watch you walk away a dissatisfied customer.
You can also consider going for the floor models or displays, which are often already discounted, and asking for a further reduction for any scratches, scuffs, or dings if those don’t bother you. Also, ask if the store offers any discounts you may be eligible for, such as an educator or active military discount. My cell phone provider offered 10% discounts when I worked part-time for the state of Texas during college. I’d asked for a student discount, which they didn’t offer, but when I pressed them on what other discounts they had, I found out about the public employee discount.
Finally, if you buy an item that goes on sale a few weeks later, it’s worth contacting the store and asking for a refund for the difference in price.
7. High-End Jewelry
If you’re in the market for fine jewelry, especially a diamond engagement ring, it’s imperative that you do your homework ahead of time and negotiate like your life depends on it. Otherwise, you’ll likely end up paying far more than you need to. Experts have estimated that the markup for diamond engagement rings can range anywhere from 50% to 250%.
How to Negotiate This
First of all, avoid chain jewelers if you can. The places you find next to the mall food court almost always have a huge markup on any piece of jewelry, plus these items can be lower quality, and you often won’t find a lot of variety or unique pieces. Instead, visit a local store or independent jeweler. They typically have more negotiating leeway, and this way, your hard-earned money stays in your community instead of going into the coffers of an enormous multinational jewelry conglomerate.
Second, be prepared to play the long game. It may take more than one visit to a store to finally buy a piece of jewelry, and that’s OK. If you want, bring a friend along who can say things like, “Is this more expensive than the piece you liked at [name of a competitor]?” When you’re buying a pricey piece of jewelry, be prepared to make multiple visits to a store or several stores. Having some patience can save you thousands of dollars.
Many high-end jewelers will tell you right off the bat that they don’t do discounts or haggle. That is almost always not true, but rather a ploy to make you pay as much as they can get out of you. Ignore this, look around, and take stock of the item or items you’re interested in. Once you’re ready to talk about prices, be polite but firm. State that the price the sales associate has quoted you is out of your budget. Make a counteroffer — somewhere around 50% less — and then be prepared to walk away if the person you’re interacting with won’t budge.
If they say something along the lines of, “That’s below cost” or “I have to make a profit,” don’t feel bad. It’s not your job to keep them in business. They’ll just fleece the next person if you’re really getting a piece from them at close to cost.
Finally, keep in mind that high-end jewelry is almost never an investment, no matter what a salesperson may tell you. Diamonds especially are a depreciating asset. You can’t turn around and sell an engagement ring or pair of diamond earrings for anywhere near what you paid for them, no matter how much or how little time has elapsed since you bought them.
Diamonds are also not rare, despite what marketing campaigns want you to think. So if you find one you love but can’t come to an agreement on the price, don’t worry, because there are thousands of other stones out there that are just like it. Shop around, find a similar one for a price you like, and buy that one instead.
8. Auto Repair
Contrary to popular belief, not all car mechanics are con artists. Unfortunately, a lot of them will charge you more than they need to for their services. Finding a good mechanic and staying loyal to them can save you money whenever something goes wrong under the hood, but this is often easier said than done. If you find yourself needing car repairs without a recommended mechanic on speed dial, negotiating car repair costs can help you save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars.
How to Negotiate This
Before anyone starts any work on your car, get a written, itemized estimate of the entire cost of the repair. Then, scrutinize the estimate to see if there’s any room for negotiation on the parts, labor, or fees. Talk through everything with the mechanic to see if they can reduce any of these categories.
For example, if you have a relatively standard, common car, many third-party companies make parts that aren’t manufacturer-branded but can be used interchangeably in your car, often for a fraction of the price. You can also consider asking about used or rebuilt parts, which can sometimes lower repair costs. If the person you’re talking to says they can’t give discounts or aren’t authorized to reduce bills, nicely ask to speak to a manager or someone else who is authorized to do so.
If you’re able, get a second estimate for the cost of the repair and see if your mechanic can match the lower quote. Talking about a competitor or someone just down the street may incentivize the shop to give you a better deal. It’s also often worthwhile to do a bit of research online to see what the needed work on your make and model usually costs. If your mechanic is quoting you a much higher price, politely ask for an explanation for the discrepancy. Once pressed, they may suddenly “remember” discounts and coupons they can give you.
Finally, the best mechanic is one you don’t need, and taking care of your car will help reduce the need for costly repairs. Some repairs are inevitable, especially if you’re in an accident or run over a nail, but performing routine maintenance on time and treating your vehicle well will generally keep it running better for longer.
9. Parking Fines
Getting a parking ticket can be infuriating as well as expensive. In my city, parking fines range from $30 to upward of $120. So when you get a ticket, what’s the best thing to do to fight it?
Even if you were in the wrong, you’re well within your rights to challenge the fine for several reasons. First, though, you should know that parking violations are not criminal offenses, which means you can’t be thrown in jail for parking too close to a stop sign. However, this also means that you’re not innocent until proven guilty and you might have a harder time appealing your case. Still, it doesn’t hurt to try.
How to Negotiate This
Try to take pictures of the scene before you move your car; these will be harder to recreate later, so it’s best to get everything noted at the time you received the ticket. Take pictures of the location where you got your parking ticket, your car, and any signage or lack thereof.
Next, read the citation carefully, noting any approaching deadlines and recourse options. Look at the ticket with an eye toward mistakes, including ensuring that your license plate and vehicle information are correct. If there’s a major mistake on the ticket, that alone may be enough to get it dismissed.
Finally, submit your appeal. This is usually done in writing, either through an online system or by mailing in a letter. State your case clearly and succinctly, and note if you’re seeking to have the ticket dismissed entirely or just want your fine reduced. Many municipalities rely on parking and moving violations as a form of revenue and will agree to reduce your fine if you pay it in a timely fashion. I was once parked on the street outside my apartment for a few days and got two tickets in 48 hours for the same violation. I appealed the tickets and got the fine cut in half, which wasn’t the outcome I had hoped for but was much better than paying full price on those two tickets. You may have your appeal rejected, but it never hurts to ask.
10. Gym Memberships
Over half of gym memberships in the United States go unused, which means people across the country are paying for memberships to gyms they never visit. This trend, called underutilization, is a crucial pillar in every gym’s business plan, whether they’re an enormous chain or a small specialized health club. However, if you’re part of the other half of the population who get their money’s worth out of their membership, you can try to save by negotiating your gym membership price.
How to Negotiate This
If you’re considering joining a new gym, do a bit of research into the quoted prices for a few gyms in your target area. Visit each gym at a time when it’s not busy and ask to speak to a manager and get a tour. Then, get a price quote. Don’t tell them what you currently pay or want to pay; make them name a price first. Then, explain that their offer is more than you’re looking to pay and ask if it’s negotiable or if they have a better offer for gym members with your specific demographics, such as teachers or military veterans.
If they won’t give you a lower price, but this is the gym you have your heart set on, see if they’ll waive your initiation fee, give you a longer free trial period, add some free friends-and-family passes to your account, or throw in perks like some sessions with a personal trainer.
Finally, try to time your negotiation for the summertime and the middle or end of the month. Employees are often eager to meet their sales goals at these times and may give you a better deal than, say, in the beginning of January when gym memberships practically sell themselves.
If you already have a gym membership but fear you’re paying too much, ask to speak to the manager or a sales associate who can help you. Explain that you’ve been a member of the gym for however long and were thinking of switching because you’d like a better deal. If you have a quoted lower price from a competitor, that’s great. If not, you can still ask if they’ll reduce your monthly fee or give you a free month if you renew your contract and see what they say.
You can also ask for a few extra perks if they’re not willing to reduce your membership fee. The gym will likely do whatever they can to keep you happy because it’s much easier to retain an existing member than to find a new one to replace you.
Contrary to what marketers and companies want you to believe, almost anything is negotiable to an extent. If you do your research, are reasonable, and ask nicely, you’re likely to get a better outcome than if you don’t ask at all. The worst any employee or sales associate can say is no, but making a request doesn’t cost you a thing. When you consider how much you could save, it’s often more than worth the hassle.
Have you ever negotiated for any of these items or services? What’s the biggest discount you’ve ever gotten on an expensive item or service?