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.
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!
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!