Developing killer negotiation skills is one of best ways to earn and save more money. Slashing bills, reducing the cost of big purchases and increasing our pay means we’ve got more cash to funnel to our financial goals.
Want to see how it’s done? These four people shot for better deals—and scored.
Mary Burke, 27, a special collections manager in Abilene, Texas
After delivering her son via cesarean section in June 2016, Mary Burke braced for a huge bill. Small ones trickled in at first—for anesthesia and the doctor’s fee—which she paid in full. Then came the big one: $7,092.19 for her and the baby’s hospital stays.
“I went to the hospital’s billing office because there was no way we could comfortably pay the minimum monthly amount,” says Burke. The clerk offered a $1,000 deduction if she could write a check on the spot, but even that was too much. So the clerk suggested Burke contact the financial aid office—something Burke didn’t even know existed.
She went home and spent the evening researching and submitting an application, explaining that she was on unpaid maternity leave and that her husband’s freelance income wasn’t guaranteed.
The next day, she went back to the hospital. “[The clerk] said I was eligible for aid, pulled out a calculator and said my bill would be reduced by 65 percent—a grand total of $2,482,” Burke says. Fifteen minutes later, she was heading home again.
Bobby Hoyt, 28, founder of Millennial Money Man in Houston, Texas
After paying off more than $40,000 in student loans in less than two years, Bobby Hoyt quit his teaching job in April 2015 to became a full-time money blogger—offering client services like sponsored posts and product reviews, social promotions and affiliate advertising.
Early on, a startup contacted him, looking to place a sponsored article for $500. “I thought I could get more, so I countered at $1,000,” Hoyt says. “But they couldn’t make that number work.” Assuming that was it, Hoyt shared his failed negotiation attempt with a friend, who offered some advice: “Ask for more, but offer more in return.”
So Hoyt went back to the startup and offered to double the number of times he’d share the post on social media. Not only did the company agree to pay $1,000, but he continues to work with them today.
“Now I use the ‘ask more, offer more’ strategy with all of my negotiations and have found it to be a really useful tool,” Hoyt says. “Both parties walk away getting more value, so it’s a win-win.”
Jessica d’Arbonne, 30, an editor in Denver, Colo.
When Jessica d’Arbonne’s 12-year-old car finally died in October, she didn’t immediately replace it. She knew December was a better month to buy, thanks to dealerships’ end-of-year discounts and willingness to sell older cars.
But when the Volkswagen emissions scandal hit, she saw an opportunity to strike. “The bad press caused many [Volkswagen] dealerships in my area to announce big sales to get rid of both new and used inventory,” says d’Arbonne.
First, she secured financing with her bank for 50 percent of her total budget, and even got a .5 percent discount for setting up automatic payments. Then she scheduled a test drive on a year-old Volkswagen with 20,000 miles on it, originally listed at $16,000.
But before she hit the lot, she made one more power move: “I negotiated with the dealership on the phone before even seeing the car,” explains d’Arbonne, who got the price dropped by about $1,000 during the conversation.
Then, at the dealership, she was polite but not overly friendly, asked straightforward questions and never let on that she really wanted the car. Her tactic worked: The salesperson agreed to waive another $1,000 in dealership fees—for a total of $2,000 saved.
Photo credit: Chad Spangler
Danielle Deschaine, 26, a digital strategist in New York, N.Y.
Feeling overworked and underpaid, Danielle Deschaine began interviewing for new gigs in May 2016. When an agency offered $59,000—a $10,000 bump—she asked her current employer to counter. After all, she liked her work and loved her co-workers.
Her boss agreed to up her salary to $61,000. But before agreeing to stay, she compared the rest of her compensation package: “Salary is something you can negotiate more often—yearly, pending performance,” Deschaine says. “But benefits aren’t up for discussion as much after you are hired.”
Rereading her offers, she realized she’d get five more vacation days, plus better and cheaper health insurance—by $1,344 a year—at the new company. Add in the extra paid time off, and Deschaine knew that taking the new offer was best.
While it didn’t result in a deal, Deschaine is glad she negotiated with her employer. With two comparable salary offers, she could zero in on other perks she may have ignored if there was a bigger pay disparity.
The experience underscored another key negotiating tactic, too: Be willing to walk away. “At the end of the day, you’ve got a responsibility to do what’s best for you, even if it’s a hard decision,” she says. (Of course, you can also use a counter to try and up the other offer as well, which is often an effective technique if you’re truly weighing both options.)