In my increasingly hypervigilant effort to decrease our household expenses, I’ve reached the point in which my attitude is “decrease this expense or I walk.” And I’m not bluffing either. I’m fully prepared to hit Cancel on current services if they don’t go down in price.
What makes my approach different than Larry’s approach is that mine actually seems to work for me. This is because I don’t necessarily complain so much as I just speak up about what I’m dissatisfied with. If the price isn’t lowered as a result of my dissatisfaction, then I have to determine whether I want to cancel the service altogether or not. And I can’t stress enough that I don’t COMPLAIN or threaten to speak to the manager or scoff or act annoyed or anything else to make the service rep uncomfortable.
Speaking up isn’t always as easy, but it’s empowering. I’ve been speaking up lately and its saving me money. Here’s how:
1. Hair cuts. Until I find that cosmetically skilled friend of a friend who will cut my hair in exchange for a homemade quiche, I go to a salon. Unfortunately, they charge $42 for women’s haircuts. It doesn’t matter that I have a super short mens-like cut, it’s $42 for my men’s haircut but it’s only $24 for the guy sitting next to me to get his hair cut….even if his hair is longer. All I did was ask my stylist why the women are charged more even if they’re getting a men’s cut. I didn’t ask it in a bitchy way. I was, honestly, a bit intrigued as to whether it took different tools or longer amounts of time to cut women’s hair. “Honestly, I don’t agree with it, either,” She said. And before I could say anything she whispered, “Next time just schedule a trim and I’ll do kind of a heavy handed trim. That only costs $10.” Perfect! Money saved: $32/cut
2. AT&T cell phone service. The Beard and I recently combined mobile plans. He changed over from Sprint to the AT&T service I was on. All in all it was going to save us around $13/month at the time so it seemed like a great deal (he had been paying $96/mo for his plan and I had been paying $86/mo and the new plan would be $169/mo for both of us). It wasn’t until the second month into the new plan that the outrage set in. Why the fuck are paying AT&T almost $200/month?! So we marched to the AT&T store and asked how we could lower our monthly bill. The rep explained that if we decreased our data usage, we could save a whopping $10/month. So we did that…..but I was still peeved. I asked around to friends and co-workers and the overwhelming response I got was a shrugged “Ya, cell phones are expensive. Whaddya gonna do?” and the occasional “Verizon is cheaper. You should switch. But then you’d have to pay hundreds of dollars in Early Termination Fees.” I finally wised up and decided that it was worth it pay the ETF and switch to something cheaper rather than wait out my contract and then The Beard’s contract. So I called them to cancel my plan.
When the AT&T rep asked me why I wanted to cancel service, I explained that it was beyond our budget and we’re going to look for something that will be generally the same service for less than $100/mo. And wouldn’t you know it…..the clouds opened up and the angels in heaven sang and the rep said she had just the plan – a brand new but very similar plan, $92/mo, that only just came out four months ago and she could switch us right to it. I was pleased to hear that but I was also a bit peeved to hear that I’d been overpaying for a similar plan for the last FOUR months. Those were the exact words I said to her: “That sounds great but I’m just a bit peeved to learn that I’ve been overpaying for the last four months.” So she credited our account by $25. Not exactly jaw dropping savings. But that’s okay. I’m only hanging onto AT&T until my contract runs up and I can make the seamless transition to Ting. I only have 3 more months to hold out.
Money saved: $67/month + $25 credit
3. Since The Beard and I crossed state lines from Kansas to Missouri last year, it’s time for me to register my car in Missouri. Funny thing about Missouri is that they required an annual inspection of your car done at a qualifying inspector’s garage usually costing about $12 – $15. I took my little Volvo into what seemed like a more lenient establishment (read: ghetto garage) in hopes that any minor issues they may find would be overlooked. Boy was I called out in that assumption when they flunked my adorable little car. They were nice about it but she took it pretty hard. They gave me a quote to fix the issues and off I went to the very affordable Volvo specialist mechanic that I use who guarantees a 2 year warranty on all his jobs. Because if I’m going to drop money to pay for something, I want the peace of mind that it’s covered for at least the next 2 years. To my surprise, my mechanic’s quote was $40 more than the other guys. Now this didn’t bother me much because I trust my mechanic but I did mention it to him. “Ya that sounds fine, Tyler,” I said, “I’m just kind of surprised to hear that your quote is $40 more than the inspector’s place.” Tyler was surprised by it too, but he knows great customer service and offered to drop off $24 from his quote. So now I have the best mechanic in town working on my car and the repair is covered under warranty and it only cost me $16 more. Now that’s a great deal. All because I spoke up. I still had to empty my entire Car Maintenance envelope.
Don’t think that didn’t sting a little.
In any case, what’s so crazy is that I didn’t even ASK for discounts in any of these scenarios. I just spoke up. Haggling is uncomfortable for me unless I’m in a thrift store, garage sale, or farmer’s market, but I know there are people who do it all the time. Anyone remember the This American Life segment about the “nice guy discount”? It’s worth a listen. A nice lesson in how not to be.