I’ve written before that I’m not crazy about the term “frugal.” I prefer the phrase “spending smart.” Maybe it’s because I equate frugality (possibly unfairly, I realize) with always opting for the lowest cost option, when sometimes the more expensive one may prove to be the better long-term choice.
Whatever you call it, if you’re reading this blog you probably do your best to be proactive about not overspending. Along those lines, here are two habits that will serve you well.
Be a not-so-early adopter
Marketers love “early adopters” — the customers who buy the latest version of whatever they sell the minute it hits the market.
But that’s the most expensive time to buy. Being trendy makes you spendy.
If you’re more interested in being deal-savvy, you’ll find it far less expensive to be a not-so-early adopter. My new favorite example? The iPhone 6 I bought before Christmas for a whopping $1.
I’ve never been accused of being trendy, and I don’t care. I’m totally fine with being two or three years behind the curve.
I had been completely content with my iPhone 4, even though people sometimes looked at me with the wonder usually reserved for those truly frugal folks still using a flip phone. Somehow I withstood the onslaught of marketing when the iPhone 5 came out. But I began to weaken when the 6 was introduced. Still, there was no way I was going to pay the prices I saw advertised, and I had no interest in the idea of leasing one.
With it in mind that I would one day upgrade, Best Buy’s $1 deal caught my eye. It required a two-year commitment with Sprint, but I was already a happy Sprint customer. So, I called Sprint to see whether current customers qualified, made sure my monthly service fee wouldn’t go up, and went ahead.
Politely push back on price hikes
Anytime I’m notified that one of our monthly bills is about to go up, I get on the phone with customer service and say something like this: “I’m a long-time customer and just received notice that our monthly cost is going from (current price) to (new price). Is there anything you can do to help me out?
I don’t complain. I’m not mean. I just make a polite, open request. And nine times out of ten, it pays off.
I did this recently with our home alarm monitoring company. They not only didn’t increase the price as their letter said they would; they actually decreased our monthly cost. I’ve done this with our cable company, our cell phone provider, and our newspaper.
That last one, a certain national business paper, is always the toughest, but they always relent. I make note of when our subscription is set to expire, look for their letter detailing what is usually a significant price hike, and get on the phone. The last time, it took about 20 minutes. They tried everything. They told me about their great content, explained how little it costs if you break it down to a daily price, offered to change my plan to weekends only.
I never got mad. I just stayed with it. I kept emphasizing that I’ve been a long-time customer and said there must be a better price they could offer. Finally, there was.
If you hate to negotiate, my encouragement is to simply practice. Start making little requests on a regular basis. When you go to a restaurant, pick a table where you’d like to sit and ask for that one. When you’re at the deli counter, ask for a sample of something you’ve never tried before. As you build the habit of making little requests, and as you get the small wins of people saying yes, you’ll be emboldened to ask for more. Always be polite, and always realize they might say no. You’ll be amazed at how often people say yes.
What are some examples from your life — either some not-so-early adopter bargains you got or some rate hikes you were able to negotiate away?