Food & Drink

Saving Centsably: Don’t be afraid to ask

I have had several encounters recently with spending money and saving money, which have encouraged me to write today’s column.

First of all, you have to realize that I am typically not an outspoken person. I do not enjoy conflict at all -- and I really do not enjoy having to ask for special favors, etc.

Many people are great at negotiating and asking for what they really want. I am not one of those people.

However, recently I have had a few experiences (and I have heard of some friends’ experiences) that have inspired me.

I wrote in May about our trip to Washington, D.C., and how we used an online travel booking service to find a fantastic place to stay.

If you remember from the column, the whole reason we got such a fantastic deal on a prime location was through a bit of negotiation and also because I did not jump at an offer the property owner made. I let him know we were going another route, and for whatever reason, he did not let the opportunity to negotiate with our family pass by.

Recently, a friend from high school had a similar experience with one of the rent-by-owner vacation-type sites. Short on time to book an end-of-summer vacation, she contacted a property owner about their rental location.

She offered nearly $300 less than the asking price for an open date on the owner’s calendar -- and the property owner accepted the offer. These two experiences are part of the reason I think it is important to negotiate when you are renting vacation stays!

Yard sales are, of course, another great place to negotiate prices. The truth is that many people who host yard sales don’t price their items any more. This means that a customer has to ask the price.

Practice with small negotiations at yard sales and soon you will be much more comfortable negotiating for savings in other areas.

Personally, my kiddos love negotiating at yard sales. With their pocket change -- or maybe a few dollars -- they get excited when they can score a neat item without spending much.

A third place where I believe you can negotiate is in the healthcare world. Even if you have insurance, the co-pays and percent-pays that are required after a surgery or a major medical ordeal can be staggering.

I have found that many doctor’s offices will work with their patients if you are just willing to ask for -- or negotiate -- a discount.

Say, for example, that I owed $300 after my co-pay for a surgery. I would have no problem contacting the billing office and offering a $200 payment in full right then.

Sometimes the billing department will negotiate -- but sometimes they will agree to the reduction simply to be able to close the account.

Other times, the answer is no. I have had two surgeries since the beginning of the year -- but because they were considered elective, the billing offices have been unwilling to negotiate on the amount due.

Just remember, as you negotiate for savings, the worst thing people can say is “no.” Your bill won’t go up because you asked for a lower price, so you really have nothing to lose -- except money, if you don’t ask!

Contact writer Rachael Mercer at