You probably know already that you can negotiate the price of a car or house, but did you realize that smaller items might be negotiable, too?
Here’s a look at five expenses you didn’t know were negotiable, along with strategies for haggling in each category.
1. Utility bills
In areas serviced by multiple internet or cable TV providers, companies often offer low introductory prices to lure customers away from competitors.
In some (but not all) cases, existing customers can still get these prices if they call and threaten to jump ship. Another less extreme approach is to call and ask if there might be a cheaper option available.
Sometimes customer service reps can work with you to find a cheaper plan that suits your needs (maybe you aren’t actually watching HBO and don’t need to pay for it).
The end of a cell phone contract is the perfect time to compare plans and call your provider to see if they might be able to match a competitor’s offer.
2. Gym memberships
Gym membership reps have some latitude on pricing, so it never hurts to ask if they might have a better offer available.
MarketWatch suggests asking the rep to waive or reduce your initiation fee, extend your trial period, reduce your monthly membership cost, or perhaps add a few gratis personal training sessions.
Join towards the end of the month when reps are eager to meet their sales goals and they may give you the rest of the month for free.
Whether you’re buying furniture new or used, you may have some wiggle room on the price, especially if you’re shopping at an independent retailer rather than a department store (bigger retailers are often less flexible on price).
If, for instance, you find a mattress you like at one retailer but another retailer is offering a sale on a similar mattress, ask if they’ll match the price or throw in free delivery.
If you’re buying multiple items, talk to the manager about perhaps getting a bulk discount. And if you’re buying used furniture on craigslist, sellers sometimes price their items with the expectation that buyers may try to haggle.
For some sellers, cleaning out the house and getting a little extra cash quickly trumps waiting to get the most cash they can.
Service providers such as hair stylists, gardeners, painters, music teachers, and landscapers may be open to negotiating their fees.
Try to negotiate upfront rather than waiting until the bill arrives.
Another strategy for virtually any type of service provider is to ask if they can offer a discount for paying in cash (no credit card processing fees for them) or paying for a big block of services at once (for instance, 10 personal training sessions for the price of nine).
Some may already offer these types of discounts. Or you may be able to reduce your costs by splitting the service with a friend.
For instance, maybe your yoga instructor can do a semiprivate lesson with both of you at once and charge less than two private lessons.
5. Medical bills
Medical and dental bills can be frustratingly complicated.
WebMD offers these tips on negotiating medical bills, among them asking to be admitted to the hospital the morning of a procedure instead of the night before.
If you’re uninsured, some providers such as psychiatrists offer services on a sliding scale.
If you’re on prescription medications, your doctor may be able to prescribe a generic instead of a pricey name brand or point you to a pharmaceutical company’s patience assistance program.
There’s even a hospital in the Bronx, New York that allows artists and musicians to barter their services in exchange for healthcare.