It Never Hurts to Ask

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Part of learning to manage your money is learning to stand up for yourself and advocate for your money.  It is much easier to let things slide when you aren’t fully in control of your money or your budget, but when you start realizing that small things add up it gives you a whole new confidence to advocate for yourself.  I’m talking about things like being overcharged at the grocery store, or a restaurant, or not exploring all options when paying a bill because you are afraid you might be labeled as cheap.  While cheap is not the preferred term I would use to describe myself (frugal or thrifty has a much cuter ring), I would rather be cheap than to let my hard earned money dwindle away due to someone else’s mistake or because I’m embarrassed to ask for something.  Here are some ways advocating for myself have given me more control over my money lately.

I bought two boxes of clementines from Harris Teeter last Saturday, and by Wednesday they had started to rot.  Clementines are not cheap, and I was beyond bummed out that I had spent so much money on rotting fruit.  I knew I was going to be back by Harris Teeter yesterday, so I got brave and decided to go by the customer service desk to see if I could get them replaced.  I had taken pictures and kept my receipt, and when I nicely explained the situation to the customer service manager, she immediately refunded twice my money and let me get two new boxes for free!   I left with $16 in cash and nice fresh clementines that will last my family hopefully for several weeks.  Had I just chalked it up to bad luck, I would have been resentful and felt powerless over losing that much money.

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My son has an ongoing medical problem that requires us to go to a children’s hospital every 3 months.  This gets expensive because in addition to just paying a copay, we have to pay a certain percentage of whatever tests or procedures are done until we meet our ridiculously high copay.  I called last week to pay his bill and asked if there were any discounts we may qualify for.  Immediately I was offered a 20% discount for paying his bill in full, which I had planned on doing anyway.  The $57 savings was much appreciated as we will go back again in February and will incur another bill then.  I also received a 50% discount on all my medical bills when he was born because I called to ask about discounts after receiving all the bills for that time.  We have private insurance and are reasonably middle class so I had assumed we would not qualify for any help, but just by asking we saved 50%  The answer could have been no, but we saved over $1000 so it was definitely worth checking on.

We have been with Dish Network for almost 2 years now and I just called to see if we could get a better price on our service.  The first person I spoke with was unable to help so I was transferred to an “account specialist”.  These are usually the people with the power to make you happy.  She was able to offer me a credit of $12 a month for the next 6 months, when I will call back and see what else they can offer me.  If you are not under a contract you have better negotiating power but they will usually do something to keep your business.  Remain polite but firm and don’t hesitate to be transferred if you are getting nowhere.

My favorite story about asking for a discount happened this summer.  After living in our house for almost two years with no porch furniture on our back deck, we bit the bullet and ordered a nice patio set from Target.  It was delivered by truck and I was appalled to see the condition of the boxes waiting for me when I got home.  It looked like the boxes had been drug and thrown every which way with pieces of my azalea bushes way down in the depths of the boxes where they gotten in the way of the delivery and pieces of the furniture sticking out all over the place.  Since this was a large purchase I was not happy.  After taking pictures and emailing Target, we followed up with a phone call to customer service.  At first they offered us a $50 credit but after using Dave Ramsey’s famous line, “that’s not good enough” we got a $150 credit refunded back to us.  After we opened the boxes and examined the furniture we found that it was all okay and we ended up with a patio set for half of what the retail price was, since we had bought it on sale, with a coupon code, using a Target Red debit card, and going through Ebates.  Talk about a great deal!

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Just remember that wealthy people get that way by intentionally watching where their money goes and by not being afraid to advocate for what’s right.  Being polite will usually get you farther than immediately going on the attack, but being firm will also get you results.  Good luck my smart money friends and please share any of your experiences in the comments!

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When You Feel Like a Frugal Failure

One of the most important steps on the journey to becoming more mindful of your money is learning to fail.  It is hard.  And painful.  And frustrating.  There will be times that you will want to quit, and just go back to living blissfully beyond your means.  It’s important to understand that this is a normal step in the process.  Any time you work to change your life, there will be pain to accompany the growth you are working so hard to achieve.

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This happened to me last night.  My family had decided to meet my sister at Chick-fil-a for dinner because they were doing a special Frozen night with Elsa and Anna.  When we arrived we had to park three parking lots away and walked in to the restaurant to find it covered in a sea of wall to wall people.  Being that I am quite claustrophobic, it was quickly decided that we would need to be leaving and eating somewhere else.  So the $20 Chick-fil-a dinner we had planned on became a $55 dinner at a steakhouse.  I was almost sick when the bill came, and not because the food was terrible.  $55 is a lot of money.  And for something that we put in our bodies that will quickly come out??  I was depressed for a while after leaving dinner.

It is so frustrating when I try so hard to live a frugal life and something unexpected comes up and derails all my efforts.  This feeling has also hit me when I am couponing and something doesn’t work out quite right.  When I first started using coupons I tried to go all out, working out huge scenarios to buy tons of products only to find the deal not working out at the store.  When something is out of stock or not the sale price advertised on my deal website, it blows everything out of whack when trying to do a huge deal.  At that point I am standing at the cash register with sweaty palms and a pounding heart on the verge of crying because all my hard work is crumbling before me.  Here’s what I have learned from these experiences (and oddly enough this ties in my failed dinner plans last night)

LET IT GO!  LET IT GO!

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There are going to be times when this lifestyle and the planning and figuring I’ve put in is just simply not going to work.  And I have to be okay with that.  Because when I am able to step back (after enjoying my well deserved pity party) I realize that all my efforts work together to bring about a change together, and no one thing is going to make or break my frugal lifestyle.  Instead of focusing on what I have messed up or what has not gone according to plan, I have to make sure that I focus just as much on what I am doing right.  Saving on groceries?  Check!  Eating out less?  Check!  Last night I had a talk with myself and realized that I had cooked at home 5 out of the last 6 nights, which made the extra $35 expense at dinner seem not so huge in proportion.  And with couponing, looking at the my receipt and seeing what I did save on brings about huge satisfaction.  Another things I have learned is that it is okay to return the items you messed up on!  Don’t feel like you are stuck with overpriced things because your deal didn’t add up.  Save your receipt and take it back.  And next week start small, focusing only on one or two deals at a time.  That will clear your mind and make it easier to balance things out if it doesn’t add up in your favor.

Learning to save money has a huge learning curve just like anything else.  It may or may not come easily to you, and either way it is going to be alright.  Start small, focus on the good, and cut yourself some slack are the keys to living a happy, balanced frugal lifestyle.

Also, in full disclosure, I did purchase $10 in lottery tickets last night since the jackpot was up to $900 million.  That is also one way to even out your frugal lifestyle, but since I didn’t win I will just keep on keeping on with my tried and true money saving methods 🙂