Archives For Frugality

The Value of Quality Cookware

Corey —  July 13, 2010

Quality matters when it comes to cookware. But how do you know when you need to buy quality and when the cheap option will do? Or how do you know when the price reflects the actual quality of the item you’re buying?

I’m a big fan of Alton Brown and his series Good Eats. One of his major tenets is to avoid unitaskers as much as possible. So when my wife and I were registering for our wedding (and later buying the rest of the cookware we needed), we consulted Alton’s book Gear For Your Kitchen. We wanted to make the right decisions about which items we should have to avoid a cluttered kitchen. There’s no use in spending money or space on something you’ll hardly or never use.

But the other reason we consulted his book was to learn where quality counts and how to choose the right tool for the job. This doesn’t mean always buying the “best” tool. It just means buying (or making) the tool that will get the job done well at a reasonable price for the level of quality needed. So we pored over the book and made a list of what we felt were the items we should have in our kitchen (that I didn’t already have before we got married).

We found that expensive kitchen tools aren’t always the right tools. For some pots and pans, it’s important to have high quality materials (which do cost more). But for others, the cheap option is just fine.

Choosing the right tools matters because cooking can be much easier and much more fun if you’re using the right tools. If you hate cooking, it could be because you lack the right tools. Or it could be because you have too many tools and no space to cook!

Having quality cookware in just the right amount is key to good, enjoyable cooking. You’ll be able to prepare your food easier and possibly even tastier (as you continue to improve your own skills). It’s also the key to having a frugal kitchen. Having tools that you don’t use or don’t need (because another tool can do that job) is simply wasteful. So I’m touching on two ideas here – the value of quality cookware and the value of having just the right tools (and not every possible tool).

If you want to learn about having just the right tools, you really ought to buy Brown’s Gear For Your Kitchen or check it out from your local library. One of the most useful aspects of his book is helping you know how to decide if you really need a tool or not and which features you need and don’t need. He also discusses the quality aspect and let’s you know when it’s best to go more expensive on an item.

The Problem with Quality Cookware

The problem with quality cookware is that it is often expensive. It’s hard to buy inexpensive quality cookware. And that’s what keeps many people from buying the good stuff. I’m not saying you need to equip your kitchen with copper everything. But being frugal is not about being cheap. It’s about getting a good value for your money and making sure you get the best price you can at the same time.

It’s obvious that frustrating yourself with cheap, useless, or too much cookware will make for some miserable cooking. You know that quality cookware matters. The only part left is for you to figure out what you need and then how you’ll get it. (Again, I can’t recommend Gear For Your Kitchen enough for helping you figure out what you need.)

If you can’t afford quality cookware all at once, you’re better off picking a couple of the most useful items and building up your set of tools from there. In our kitchen, the 3-quart saucepan and the 5-quart Dutch oven get the most use by far. If I had to recommend just one pan and one pot to use, those would fit the bill. They can cover most of your cooking needs.

       Finding free things to do can seem daunting, but opportunities abound all around you. Here are some ideas on how to find free things to do in your area. As a bonus for Lancaster County residents (this is where I live), I’ve included links to make it easy to find free things to do.

Check Your Local Resources

       If you’re looking for events or even just some ideas, your local resources will be a great first stop. Look for county, city, and community websites and publications that offer a calendar of events. Possible resources include newspapers, government agencies, schools, radio stations, churches, libraries, museums, recreation centers, parks, tourism websites, volunteer organizations, and so on.

       Some groups offer online calendars that are updated regularly. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to sort out the free things to do. If not, you’ll have to sort through your options to find the free things. If you’re a family, make this a group effort to find something everyone is interested in.

       The links for Lancaster County residents are below. The rest of this article is just a list of ideas (93 ideas to be exact!) for things to do. Most are free or at least very cheap (unless you make them expensive). You won’t like everything on these lists, but you’ll probably find at least one thing you’d like to do. Enjoy!

Links for Lancaster County residents:

Get Outside

  • Take a walk

  • Take a Hike

  • Go birdwatching

  • Go stargazing

  • Just go outside and sit

  • Go to a park

  • Take a walking tour (of your neighborhood or city)

  • Garden or landscape

  • Forage for wild foods (Be careful! Be sure you know what you’re picking!)

Get Creative

  • Cook something new

  • Write poetry

  • Read a book

  • Paint or draw

  • Bake some bread

  • Make something with your hands (woodcraft, knit/crochet, crafts, etc.)

  • Take digital photographs

  • Create some graphic art

  • Start a blog

  • Try origami

  • Watch a classic, foreign, or independent film

  • Make your own movie

  • Stock up on homemade greeting & holiday cards

  • Write a journal

  • Play some music

  • Listen to some music (really listen)

  • Read some poetry

  • Act out a play

  • Write a play

  • Make up a game

Get Smart

  • Go to the library

  • Learn a new skill for your career

  • Take a free community class or workshop

  • Read a newspaper

  • Watch an educational video or show

  • Memorize Bible verses

  • Do some puzzles (crossword, sudoku, jigsaw, etc.)

  • Learn a new language (or just 10 words in a new language)

  • Refresh your brain on school subjects you’ve forgotten

  • Visit a museum or zoo

  • Learn auto, home, or appliance maintenance & repair skills

  • Study the basics of a new subject

  • Read about something you’ve always wanted to do & learn how

  • Learn to play a new musical instrument

Get Personal

  • Play a board or card game together

  • Write a letter to an old friend, your parents, or a relative

  • Go meet your neighbors (combine with baking cookies)

  • Take time to be intimate with your spouse

  • Call someone and keep in touch

  • Study and research your genealogy

  • Talk about your goals with your spouse/family

  • Join an interest group (like a book club)

  • Write a letter to your future descendants

  • Play with your pet(s)

  • Host a potluck & movie night with your friends

  • Go to church

  • Pray and read the Bible together

  • Clean up your neighborhood (with your neighbors!)

Get Organized

  • Clean out a closet or a room

  • Plan your next vacation

  • Make or buy Christmas gifts

  • Work on your will & estate documents

  • Clean your whole house (inside or out)

  • Have a yard sale (get rid of stuff you don’t use & make some money!)

  • Scan your old pictures and documents, then organize them in folders on your computer

  • Organize your financial papers

  • Review your budget & net worth (and look for savings)

  • Create a to-do list (with deadlines, next actions, and categories)

  • Inspect your house for maintenance tasks that need to be done (make a list)

  • Sort through your books, CDs, DVDs, etc. and get rid of what you don’t want

  • Create an emergency information binder (health & financial records, account #’s & passwords, etc.)

  • Clean off your desk, refrigerator, or table (wherever you pile stuff)

  • Cook some meals in advance and freeze them

  • Rearrange your furniture

Get Active

  • Play some Frisbee

  • Join a community sports team

  • Exercise

  • Go for a bike ride

  • Play football, soccer, or catch

  • Learn yoga or tai chi

  • Take martial arts lessons (the first one is often free!)

  • Go swimming (at a friend’s house or in a stream/creek/river/pond/ocean/etc.)

Give Back

  • Volunteer your time

  • Help out an elderly or disabled neighbor or friend

  • Take a nap (give back to yourself)

  • Donate some stuff to charity (combine with organization activities!)

  • Be a friend to the needy and the outcast (spend time & develop a relationship)

  • Help out with a church project

  • Plant a tree

  • Gather the recycling for your neighborhood (if you don’t have a service)

  • Write a how-to or knowledge article for Instructables, Wikipedia, etc.

  • Make a useful video for YouTube

  • Help out with an open-source software project (if you know or want to learn programming)

  • Hold a fundraiser for a charity

Share Your Ideas

       The best ideas are the ones you come up with yourself. If you’ve got a good idea on how to find free things to do or just know some free things anyone can do, share them in the comments below!

       This is a guest post from the people at Lender 411.

       The largest investment many of us will ever make is the purchase of a home. Many people purchase this “product” at least once during their lifetime. This “product”, however, is often so expensive that only a small fraction of potential buyers can actually afford to buy it in full at any given time. Few future homeowners have $300,000 in cash in their hands. Most of us will likely earn far more money than this over our lifetime, but we don’t have access to it all at once. In the meantime, we need a place to live.

       A mortgage helps solve this problem. Banks, with access to large sums of money, agree to give you the $300,000 you need right now at a price. This price is what we call interest, and you may have heard it said that “interest is the price of money”. This is true in one sense, but in reality what you’re paying for is time. Remember, you will undoubtedly earn far more than $300,000 over the course of your career. The interest, the “price” that the bank charges you, is not buying you the actual $300,000 itself. You will eventually earn that either way. What you get is time. The bank gives you $300,000 and time, often 30 years or so, in which to earn this money. You ultimately give the bank $300,000 back plus the price of the time.

       Different banks charge different rates for their time, and of course, the amount of time you’re buying will differ from bank to bank as well and will depend on your personal situation. But at the core, this is how mortgages work.

       What’s the value of a mortgage refinance? Simply put, a refinance allows you to repurchase the time that you’ve bought from your bank at a different interest rate, one that is lower and more favorable to you. You can also extend the life of your loan, buying you additional time at this decreased rate. A refinance, then, is like purchasing additional time at a lower price. If you can find or arrange such a deal, a mortgage refinance can be immensely valuable.

       There’s the logic behind it. As you consider whether this financial step would benefit you, remember one thing. Time is a commodity. You can buy it from any financial institution. Educate yourself and learn what your options are. Find the lowest mortgage rates that are available to you, because the lowest rate will get you the best price on the time that you’ve purchased.

Paul & Michelle       Welcome to the 232nd Festival of Frugality – Anniversary Edition. If you’re new to Provident Planning, take a chance use my Start Here page to learn what this website is all about. You can also find some free stuff here, so be frugal and check it out!

       As of this coming Sunday, my wife, Michelle, and I will have been married for one year! It’s been a great year, and I’m looking forward to many more. Since I’ve got our anniversary on my mind, I thought I’d make this Festival of Frugality all about anniversaries and events for June 1st.

Editor’s Picks

CNN by hyku on Flickr

CNN celebrates 30 years of broadcasting today.

       BWL presents 10 Creative Ways To Give posted at Christian Personal Finance. This was actually a guest post by Craig Ford. I really liked the ideas he gave for creative ways to give.

       vh presents How to Rescue a Scorched Pan—Easy! | Funny about Money posted at Funny about Money. I’m including this as one of my picks because it’s such a great way to clean a scorched pan. The results were excellent (with pictures).

       Donna Freedman presents Why you need a nap. posted at Surviving and Thriving. She makes some good points as to why rest is important for frugality.

       Christine Talley presents The Folly of Buying Things Twice posted at Chicago: cheap!. Christine reminds us that quality is very often more important than price.

Making Money

Beatles the early years by burwell on Flickr

       My article for this week’s Festival of Frugality is Frugal Tips from The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Calculating Your True Hourly Wage. How much do you really make from your job after you account for all the expenses it takes to get to work, prepare for work, and relax from work? Your true hourly wage may shock you.

       Unfortunately, there weren’t more articles in this category. I know it’s the Festival of Frugality, but let’s remember that there are two sides to the “spend less than you earn” equation. Let’s see more articles in this category next time!

Saving Money

Thomas Edison by Sheepback.Cabin on Flickr

Thomas Edison received his first patent 141 years ago today.

       Mike Collins presents How to Save Money on Groceries posted at Saving Money Today and says “Learn some easy tips for saving money at the supermarket.”

       FMF presents A Great, New Way to Save at the Library posted at Free Money Finance and says “A simple but very effective way to use your library memebership to save on something you might not expect it to cover.”

       Mrs. Money presents Homemade Soft Scrub Recipe posted at The Ultimate Money Blog.

       Jason presents 10 Tips to Help Parents Stay Out of Debt posted at Live Real, Now.

       Karen McLaughlin presents How I Got a Gorgeous Perennial Garden for FREE! posted at Abundance on a Dime and says “How I went from “nothing” to a completely filled in, great looking garden bed without spending a cent!”

       Wise Bread presents Ultimate Credit Card Perks Checklist – Benefits You Don’t Know About posted at Wisebread.

       Tim Chen presents Getting The Most Out Of Your Thank You Points posted at NerdWallet Blog – Credit Card Watch and says “If you’ve got a Citi card, you may not be getting the most bang for your buck. You not only have to know how to earn points, but you have to know how to redeem them to make sure you can at least get your 1% back.”

       Silicon Valley Blogger presents How Nintendo Wii Sports & Wii Fit Cut Down on Gym Membership Costs posted at The Digerati Life and says “Here’s one way to cut down on exercising costs. Choose the cheaper and entertaining alternative.”

       Bucksome presents Bringing Entertainment Closer to Home posted at Buck$ome Boomer’s Journey to Retirement.

       Squirrelers presents The Frugal Athlete posted at Squirrelers and says “We can apply principles from athletic training to our money management skills.”

       LeanLifeCoach presents Frugal Printing, Is It Possible? posted at Eliminate The Muda! and asks “How frugally can we print?”

       freefrombroke presents Comparing TV Services With BillShrink posted at Free From Broke and says “BillShrink developed a system to help you see if you can save money on TV providers in your area. I gave the site a shot to see how well it worked.”

       Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog presents Saving Money With An iPhone posted at Canadian Finance Blog and asks “Ever wondered if buying an expensive cell phone can actually save you money? Here’s some ways it just might.”

       Mr Credit Card presents Marriott Discounts posted at Ask Mr Credit Card.

Managing Money

Anne Boleyn

Anne Boleyn was crowned Queen Consort of England 477 years ago.

       Neal Frankle presents How To Shelter Retirement Account In Divorce posted at Wealth Pilgrim and says “There are some new ideas to shelter your retirement account in a divorce. It’s not difficult to do but you have to be proactive.”

       Craig Ford presents How To Pay Off A Mortgage Early posted at Money Help For Christians and says “Paying off your mortgage is a great way to save some money in the long term. This post shares some tips for paying off the mortgage.”

       Jeff Rose presents How To Get The Best Rates For Term Life Insurance posted at Jeff Rose and says “Follow these steps to save yourself a pretty penny on your life insurance premiums.”

       Adam presents Should I Invest Using Pre-Tax or Post-Tax Money? posted at Magical Penny and says “It’s not frugal to avoid paying taxes by saving as much as you can pre-tax -sometimes you need to find a balance between paying taxes now and later. I outline the pros and cons of saving using Pre-tax and Post-tax money.”

       PT presents Stop the Money Leak or Divert the Flow? posted at PT Money and says “There are two ways to save more. Why not do both?”

And the Rest…

Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig by Mojumbo22 on Flickr

Eighty-five years ago, Lou Gehrig began his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played.

       Madeleine Begun Kane presents Charge! posted at Mad Kane’s Humor Blog.

       Jim presents International Restaurant Tipping Guide posted at Wanderlust Journey.

       Cheapskate Sandy presents The Best Frugal People to Follow on Twitter posted at Yes, I Am Cheap and says “Social networks can be used to just make connections, but to save you some serious money. These are the best people on Twitter to help you save.”

       MoneyNing presents How to Downsize Your Lifestyle posted at MoneyNing.

       Miss Thrifty presents Introducing Erica’s Garden Pantry – and her pond-bath posted at Miss Thrifty.

       Thanks for visiting this edition of the Festival of Frugality! Be sure to tune in next week at Learn Save Invest for the next edition.

       I borrowed The Complete Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn from my local library a while back because I’d read so much about it on other personal finance blogs. I started reading through it, and I found so many good tips and ideas that I decided to buy a copy for myself from Amazon. This post is part of a series where I’ll share my take on some of my favorite tips from the book.

Calculating Your True Hourly Wage

       In discussing the net value of a second income, Amy brings up a useful technique that’s also discussed in Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The idea is to calculate exactly how much money you’re making from your job after you account for all the related expenses. Divide that by the number of hours you spend working, getting ready for work, getting to work, and relaxing after work and you’ll have your real hourly wage.

       How much do you really make after you take out taxes, transportation costs, clothing, meals, the things you do to relax after a hard day at work, and all the things you pay others to do because you don’t have enough time? How many extra hours do you spend getting ready for work, driving through traffic, or watching TV to de-stress?

       This number is useful for two reasons. First, you’ll open your eyes to what you’re really bringing home from your job. Second, you can use this figure to decide if it’s worth it to pursue certain activities or to do things yourself instead of hiring someone.

What about Bob? (An Example)

       Let’s use a simple example to show how you’d do this calculation. Bob makes $18/hour working 40 hours a week at his job – making a total of $720 each week. First, we’ll take out taxes. His federal, state, and local taxes add up to about $110/week leaving him with $610/wk after taxes.

       Bob lives 10 miles from work and estimates he spends 2.5 hours driving every week and about $30/wk on gas & maintenance for his car. So now he’s down to $580/week for 42.5 hours spent.

       Bob doesn’t have to wear anything special for work, but he does have a tendency to eat out instead of bringing his lunch from home. Additionally, he usually ends up eating out for supper twice a week because he just doesn’t feel like cooking after getting home from work. His lunches and eating out cost him about $80/week. While he could eliminate those expenses now, Bob is honest with himself and admits he probably won’t do that as long as he’s still busy from work. This drops his net pay down to $500/week.

       Bob figures he must have at least an hour every evening in front of the TV just to relax after work. He could do something else if he didn’t feel so stressed out from work, so he adds 5 hours/week to his total bringing it to 47.5 hours. Additionally, Bob spends Friday and Saturday nights going out with his friends to get away from thinking about how much he hates his job. He figures this costs him about $40/week and 2.5 hours. (Now he’s at $460/week and 50 hours for those playing at home.)

       Finally, Bob pays about $20/week in services he buys because he doesn’t have enough time due to his job. These are things like home maintenance, simple car repairs and maintenance, and someone to mow his yard. So he’s down to $440/week for 50 hours of effort – or $8.80/hour. That’s less than half of what he “earns” at his job!

Your Own Situation

       Bob’s calculations aren’t going to work for you. But you can follow the same sort of process to figure out your real hourly wage. Carefully consider all the expenses and time attached to what you do to earn money but also try to be realistic. This can be an especially eye-opening exercise for two-income households with kids. If both parents work and you have to hire babysitters or pay for child care, you could easily be better off if one parent quits their job to stay home with the kids.

       Make sure the expenses you relate to your job will actually go away if you quit your job. If you’re not willing to do some of those things, that’s not going to change if you work less. This is especially true when thinking of the frugal activities you could pursue if you had more time. You have to be willing to actually do them or you’re not saving any money at all!

       Finally, don’t take my example of Bob too seriously. There are definitely things he could do to improve his real hourly wage by making some simple choices (like brown-bagging his lunch). But the point is that Bob’s job pushes him to do those things because of stress, time constraints, or whatever other reasons keep Bob from eliminating those extra expenses.

Sign Up for Free Updates!

       If you want some more good ideas on saving money from The Complete Tightwad Gazette, make sure you sign up for free updates from Provident Planning. I write on a wide variety of personal finance topics, so even if you’re not interested in frugality I’m sure you’ll find something useful here.

Life Is Possible Without TV!

Corey —  May 26, 2010

       About a month ago, my wife and I canceled our satellite TV subscription and did not replace it. I’m here to report that we have survived this terrible experience and are doing quite well.

TV Is Not the Secret of Life

       I say “terrible experience” because many people simply cannot imagine living without TV (cable, satellite, antenna, whatever). How will I get on without my favorite shows? What will I do when I get home from work/school? What will I do with my spouse without TV? Because we’re so dependent on TV for automatic, easy, and mindless entertainment, we can’t imagine going without it. But TV is not essential for life, and it is possible to live beyond American Idol and (Glee/Chuck/Psych/NCIS/enter your favorite show here).

Free Alternatives

       Now, I’m not claiming that my wife and I are the ultimate example of giving up television. We still have our TV – just no subscription. I’ve hooked up a computer that I got by bartering my time with a friend. We can watch shows that are available online and we occasionally borrow DVDs from our library. We also use our laptops to watch shows when we’re not watching together. But we have significantly reduced our time in front of the TV/TV shows, and I think it’s a good thing.

       So how do we live without a cable or satellite subscription? It’s not as difficult as you might think. My wife has been able to find most of her favorite shows online using Google’s video search. Many of the networks now have full episodes on their websites as well. As I mentioned before, we sometimes borrow DVDs from our library. And many of the shows/videos I like to watch have been available for free online for quite some time. (I find a lot of interesting talks on even though I don’t agree with the views of most speakers.)

Finding Better Things to Do with Your Time

       But beyond replacing the cable/satellite subscription with free* alternatives, we’ve found other activities to replace the time spent in front of the TV. My wife is reading more books than before and finding new hobbies to explore. I’ve been working on my business more, studying the Bible, and reading about theology and other subjects I find interesting. We’ve been working to find things we can do together. But most of our shared interests are outdoor activities and the weather hasn’t been nice enough to do much hiking or kayaking lately.

* (I say free even though the online videos require an Internet connection because I need the Internet connection for my business. Since it’s something we’d have anyway, I consider it a sunk cost and the online alternatives to TV as essentially free. If you wouldn’t have the Internet connection anyway, these wouldn’t be free alternatives for you.)

Saving Time, Saving Money

       My point is that you can save a significant amount of time and money by cutting out your TV subscription/addiction. As Ben Franklin said, “In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it, is as plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two words, industry and frugality; that is, waste neither time nor money, but make the best use of both.”

       The money you save from cutting out TV can help you reach your goals. And the time you save by not watching so much TV can help you improve yourself, start a part-time business, pick up extra time at work, pursue a hobby, spend time with your family, volunteer, or do a number of other more meaningful activities.

       As Christians, we know that much of what we find on TV isn’t worth watching at all. It does little to strengthen us spiritually, and there are certainly better ways we can spend our time if we want to glorify God and be a witness to His love and grace. That alone is a good enough reason to go cold turkey on TV. The time and money savings just makes the deal even better.

       We’ve become a nation of people who think life is hardly worth living without constant entertainment. But my wife and I, along with many others, are proof that life is possible without TV. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose. I’m sure the shows you might miss will be back in reruns…

       Negotiation skills are a powerful asset in life. Understanding how to negotiate will help you get raises and promotions, get a better deal, and get out of paying stupid fees. These five steps will help you learn how to negotiate better and smarter.

1. Prepare

       Before you begin negotiating (meeting with your boss or calling a company), take time to prepare for the negotiation. Think about what you want to accomplish and make it a concrete goal. “I want a 10% raise” is better than “I want more money”.

       Then, take some time to look at it from the other person’s point of view. Why should they be willing to give you what you want? In the case of getting a raise, have you proven yourself to be a valuable asset to the company? If you’re dealing with a business you buy from, have you been a customer for a long time or is it difficult to get new customers?

       The key is to list your accomplishments and reasons why you should get what you want. If you’ve saved your company money or taken on new responsibilities, write down exactly what you have done. Good examples would be “saved the company $20,000 a year by reducing waste in …” or “supervising ten more employees than last year”. Be ready to justify your request with reasons that will appeal to the other person.

       If you’ve been hit with a bogus fee, review your situation and be ready to explain what happened and why you don’t think you should be charged. If you were misinformed by an employee of the company, make that clear when you call. This is also why it’s smart to keep a record of when and to whom you speak when you call a company. You can easily reference the conversation and the person if a problem arises in the future.

2. Choose the Right Time

       Timing can greatly help your changes of negotiating successfully. If you’re asking for a raise, try to do it right after you finished a major accomplishment or as you take on new responsibilities. Your boss will have a difficult time overlooking the current circumstances – making it easier to give you a raise.

       Trying to get a better deal on your cell phone? Wait until your contract is just about to expire. (This works for other bills, too.) Businesses often spend quite a bit of money to get customers, so they’ll often do what they can to keep you. Negotiating when you’ll have the option to cancel gives you more power.

3. Be Firm & Confident but Polite

       Even if you are nervous or unsure, act confident and be firm as you negotiate. Weakness (real or perceived) puts the negotiating power back in the other person’s hands, so avoid it at all costs. This simply means you should not act timid when making your request. If you know you deserve a raise, act like it!

       However, this doesn’t mean you should be rude. Nobody likes a jerk. If you become hostile or impolite, people may refuse your request simply because they don’t like you. Be pleasant, kind, and patient and you will be rewarded.

       Another strategy is to use praise to your advantage. When negotiating a raise, show that you enjoy working there and are aligned with the company’s interest. If you’re trying to get a good deal with a company, comment on how you’ve enjoyed using their product in the past. Let people know you appreciate their time and help and they’ll be happy to help you again.

4. Be Ready to Respond

       You should be ready to respond to any number of reactions you get. If the answer is yes, then express your thanks. If the person needs to get someone else’s approval, let them know you appreciate their support. If the answer is no, things get a little trickier.

       If you’re trying to lower your bills or get rid of bogus fees, don’t give up at the first “no”. Restate one of your reasons for why you should get what you’re asking and follow that up with a leading question. Here’s an example: “Well, I’ve been a customer for 3 years and I’d hate to have to switch to [competitor]. What can you do to help me lower my bill (or get this fee waived)?” Do not follow up with a question that can be easily answered with a “yes” or “no”. Push for a “what else” or “how” type question rather than simply saying “Are you sure?” or “OK”.

       Dealing with your employer is a bit different because you don’t want to be so pushy you lose your job. If you think your boss is being unreasonable in denying your raise (i.e., you actually do deserve it), don’t be afraid to ask for more details and insist on your accomplishments once again. Be polite but firm. “After saving the company $25,000/year and increasing efficiency by 15%, a 10% raise is a reasonable award. In addition, comparable positions pay 20% more than my current salary so it is still good for the company.”

       If your boss still won’t (or can’t) budge, offer some alternatives that might not cost more money but are still beneficial to you. Increased vacation time, flexible hours, or the option to telecommute one day a week are a few examples. If these don’t go over well, ask for concrete goals you can achieve to earn a raise and get an appointment to renegotiate in a few months.

5. Be Ready to Walk Away

       Finally, you must be prepared to walk away if necessary. If a company won’t offer you a discount, let them know you can get a better deal elsewhere (be specific) and thank them for their time. That’s often enough to get what you ask for right away (but you shouldn’t abuse it).

       If you are significantly underpaid, work very hard, and have not been able to get a raise, be ready to leave your employer and go elsewhere. I wouldn’t use this as a negotiation tactic though. Even if your current employer offers to increase your salary, they’ll know you aren’t loyal to the company and they may look to replace you. Your best bet is to start looking for a new job without letting your current boss know. Turn in your resignation after you have a firm offer from a new employer and move on.

These Tips Do Work!

       If you think these tips don’t work, I’m proof that they do. Using these strategies, I’ve gotten 10% raises, lowered several of my bills, and had bogus fees waived several times. Again, preparation and confidence are key. You must know why you deserve to get what you’re asking for and be willing to push for it if necessary. Many times, simply asking will get what you want because so many people fail to take that step.

       Have you successfully negotiated a raise, lower bills, or fee waivers? Share your tips and stories in the comments!