I’m always amazed at how readily people automatically whip out their wallets – or their credit cards – to get a product or service they want, without thinking at all about whether they can get want they want cheaper, or maybe even free. To make saving money a way of life, remember the phrase: “Just Ask!” For starters, ask yourself three questions:
- Can I get it free?
- Can I get it for less?
- Can I get it in exchange for something else?
Believe it or not, we’re quickly moving toward a free nation: free music downloads, free news and information, free offers for everything from cosmetics and luxury goods to legal aid and complimentary meals.
If something you want isn’t available free, that doesn’t mean you can’t get it for less than the full asking price. Just be prepared to negotiate – in a nice way, of course. Most people think the price tag they see advertised is “written in stone.” The truth is that you can negotiate nearly everything – from clothes in a department store to medical bills. Ask for a discount if you pay cash.
Always ask “is that the best price you can offer?” And don’t be afraid to let retailers know that you’re looking for a deal. There’s no shame in asking: “Will this item be going on sale soon?" If the answer is “Yes,” wait to buy it until the sale occurs.
Can’t find a freebie or a discount? Then it might be time to barter. Instead of paying for goods and services, offer to exchange your talent (maybe it’s cooking, dentistry, braiding hair, teaching piano or whatever) to others. Even if you can’t offer a service, you may have something of value to barter. That’s the whole idea behind the increasingly popular home exchange services, for instance, where you get to swap homes with someone in a far-flung country (free of charge), in exchange for letting them temporarily reside at your place.