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Thursday, May 30th, 2024

Garry Marr,

Financial Post · Aug. 23, 2011 |

"If you dont ask, you dont get" says Dustin Six, a sales and logistics co-ordinator, regarding discounts.

“If you dont ask, you dont get” says Dustin Six, a sales and logistics co-ordinator, regarding discounts.

Everybody loves a deal and the best way to find one is to demand one.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your monthly expenses, imagine being able to accomplish that without giving up a thing.

Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up the phone and calling everybody from your cable provider to your insurer to your landlord, and saying, “I need you to do better.”

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” says Dustin Six, a 30-year-old sales and logistics co-ordinator in Calgary. “What have you got to lose if they say no?”

There’s nothing to stop you from asking your home insurer to drop their rates, your cable company to cut your bill or your cellphone provider to look for a better plan. Why not ask your financial advisor if he or she might do just a little better on the rate they charge to manage your money. What about your bank account? Perhaps you need to be put in a more advantageous account with lower monthly fees or a higher interest rate.

Mr. Six has managed to negotiate on many of his monthly staples like his cellphone, his Internet service and his car insurance. Sometimes it’s just a matter of asking for a discount you are already entitled to.

“On my car insurance, it was telling them I’d taken a safe driving course,” says Mr. Six, noting it was something that previously his insurer was not giving him a discount for.

It was only after getting into credit trouble that Mr. Six took a hard look at his expenses. “We’ve been able to save quite a bit [without giving up much],” he says.

Edmonton-based certified financial planner Al Nagy, of Investors Group, tries to get clients to spend a month looking at their expenses down to the cent so they can see how money is leaving the household.

Cash flow planning is one of the things we look at to see if there is any free money available,” says Mr. Nagy, who cautions you don’t want to spend hours or the phone nickel and diming but rather look for real savings. “What is your time worth?”

Ultimately though, he says clients who analyze their budget usually discover a number of items that can trimmed without much pain.

“One thing I tell people to look at is carrying charges for loans outstanding. Sometimes you just go in and sit down with your banker and there are deals to be had but you just have to ask,” says Mr. Nagy. “It’s not about threatening to leave but asking for what product will save you the most.”

He has seen young clients easily come up with a $200 a month in savings and long term it can make a huge difference in your wealth. “You’ve got money now for RRSPs, whatever,” says Mr. Nagy.

Patrick Connolly, the Canadian president of UTR Global, which analyzes communication bills for corporate clients to look for savings, says it’s not in a corporation’s interests to save you money.

“They are not looking out for you, they are looking out for them,” says Mr. Connolly. “They want to make their best bang for the buck, but if you call customer service, you get that better deal. They see you in their customer base for 10 years and they want to keep you.”

Anton Simunovic, the chief executive of, a website for tracking children’s allowances, has a few tips on negotiating after a decade of also working in the venture capital industry.

“It’s a conversation, it’s not a confrontation,” says Mr. Simunovic, about trying to extract a deal from somebody you get service from on an ongoing basis. “You have to remember, these companies whether they are small or whether they are big, they want to keep you as a customer and want to keep your money.”

Everything in your regular budget should be considered on the table, he says. Take a look at your rent if you live in a city where vacancies are high. If your car insurance just went up, shop around. Don’t like the current offering from your cellphone provider? See if the competitor is doing better.

When you’re picking up that phone, you have to remember the company on the other end of the line will have to spend money to replace you as a customer if you leave.

“You really don’t want to lose your customers,” says Mr. Simunovic, adding reminding a company of how long you’ve been generating revenue for them can go a long way in negotiating.

The key to any deal is trying to figure out how low your service provider can go and still make what they consider a reasonable profit. This often means asking to speak with someone who can authorize a larger discount.

“Be respectful, have a terrific conversation and then ask if you can chat with the manager. The people you chat with on the phone do have the ability to do things, they are not just order takers but you can go beyond. Just ask,” says Mr. Simunovic, adding it’s important to not get stuck spending three hours on the phone to save a few dollars.

He says competition is the great equalizer. When you get that flyer in the mail, hold onto it and quote the deal to company’s competitor.

Sometimes it’s not even a question of negotiating but changing habits. You can get the same type of canned goods at discount grocery chain that is available at an expensive chain.

Other times, there are chances to negotiate on a one-off basis. “What haven’t I negotiated on?” says Mr. Simunovic with a laugh.

He was recently looking for a case for an e-reader and in his local store he saw a bunch opened but not in a box and asked if he could get discount for one. He did. “It took me 12 seconds to ask and I saved $10. That’s not being cheap, it’s being a conscientious consumer,” says Mr. Simunovic.

Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counselling Services of Canada Inc., says those savings can turn things around for consumers.

“If you have more money available from others things they can hopefully make their money work efficiently and pay down some of that debt,” he says, adding it could also lead to savings Canadians might not otherwise have.

So why aren’t we all looking for a deal?

“Sometimes it’s complacency,” says Mr. Schwartz. “Consumers get into the routines of their lives. We live such busy lives and you take for granted all the things that are there and don’t think ‘what can I do to improve my budget without changing my lifestyle.’”

He says sometimes people are just afraid to make that call because it’s not in their makeup to try to get a deal. They are afraid of that rejection, says Mr. Schwartz.

But the truth is you’ll be turned down for a discount less often than not. “It’s amazing how much money we can save on a monthly basis,” he says.

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