When we think about saving money, we tend to think about frugality.
We usually save money by refraining from buying things we don’t need.
However, there’s a much easier way to save AND make money at the same time: by asking one simple question.
And here’s how:
1. Student loans
I was chatting with an intern at work after a meeting the other day.
She told me about her future plans and how she wanted to get a decent job to pay off her student loans from Georgetown University, one of the most prestigious and expensive universities in Washington DC.
She had worked at the UN for four years overseas and decided to apply to graduate school.
She got a scholarship from the school but thought it wasn’t enough.
She decided to write a short email to Georgetown saying that she needed more financial aid to enroll in the school, and that she wouldn’t be able to attend otherwise.
The email took her a couple of minutes to write.
Shortly after, the Financial Aid came back with another scholarship that was twice as much as she originally offered.
The story doesn’t end there.
At that time, she got promoted and decided to defer her enrollment for a year. A year later, she wrote to the school and asked for more financial aid since she had another year of experience and qualifications under her belt.
It was another short email that took her less than 5 minutes to type up. This time the result is even better. Georgetown decided to triple her original scholarship. Score!
Lesson: Before you sign that student loan agreement, try to apply for scholarships. Even when you are given a scholarship, don’t stop there. Try to negotiate for a better financial aid package.
The worst they can do is say no. My colleague managed to save thousands of dollars with just two short emails that literally took her less than 10 minutes to write in total. That’s a pretty high rate for only 10 minutes if you ask me.
2. House purchase
In the negotiation phase of our home purchase, our realtor took a technician to the house to estimate how much it’d cost to fix some of its more major problems. The technician came back with a $9,000 estimate.
The realtor told us to ask for $3,000 back from the seller. However, I insisted on $4,500. Our realtor cautioned us against that since it might upset the seller and they could choose not to sell the house to us.
But I knew back then they had no other offer, and the house had sat on the market for 3 months. It was the last step in the process.
If the seller said no, we could have walked away from the deal (which we didn’t intend to do). I mean, the worst the seller would do, I suspected, was to say no, and we would still close on it.
After a day of deliberation, the seller agreed to give us a $4,500 credit towards the purchase price. We just saved $4,500 right there by simply asking the seller for it.
We use Verizon for our wireless internet connection at home. During the first year, we got a promotional rate of $49.99 instead of $59.99 a month.
After that first year, our rate went up. I had read that some people managed to negotiate a lower rate with their internet company.
I thought about it but never acted on it. I was lazy. I was shy. And I lost $180 over the next 18 months by not taking any action.
It wasn’t until I read Lily‘s article about her internet bill that I decided to call Verizon. I made the following points:
— We are their loyal customers. But our rate went up, and we’re not happy about it.
— We are considering promotional packages at other companies and would like to discontinue Verizon due to their high price
The rep immediately offered the old rate of $49.99/mo and locked us in another 2-year contract. Since then, we’ve been able to save another $190 in internet bills.
Sometimes it pains me to think about the $180 we lost. That’s a lot of groceries and clothes I could have bought for our family instead of having to buy food on sale or getting hand-me-downs for our kids.
However, it is a great reminder to me that I should always try to be proactive and negotiate with companies.
4. Amazon purchase
On Black Friday in this year, Mr. FAF ordered a Sony Noise Cancelling Wireless Headset for $198. He said he needed it for when he worked at home.
Mr. FAF eagerly awaited the arrival of his new toy while I couldn’t care less about that headset. On the day the product was supposed to arrive, Amazon sent him an email saying the headphones had gotten lost in transit and that they would give him a full refund.
Mr. FAF got upset. But he didn’t give up. He found the same product from another seller for $299. He called Amazon Customer Service to complain.
Lo and behold, 10 minutes later, Amazon gave him a $101 gift card to make up for the price difference between the two headsets.
I was breastfeeding Baby F2 when Mr. FAF stormed into the room with a big smile on his face. He concluded the story with “I love Amazon” and left. I said the same thing and went on with my life.
Related: 5 Reasons Why I Love Amazon Prime
5. State park
Mr. FAF and I went to a state park in the summer.
After driving for almost an hour, we got to the park only to see the sign that we had to show them a driver’s license with our address on it to get in for free. Otherwise, we would have to pay $25 for each adult or $50 in total to see the park.
Both of us forgot our driver licenses at home. We didn’t want to pay $50 just to see the park. But we were already there. Mr. FAF said we should just pay the price. But I told him we are indeed residents of Virginia and should be able to get in for free.
I decided to explain our situation to the park ranger. She was pretty nice about it and let us get in for free. All it took us that day was one question “We live in Virginia but forgot our IDs at home. Can we still get in for free?” And we had a great time enjoying nature.
This one may take more than just a question. But if Mr. FAF hadn’t asked me to be his girlfriend and then his wife, we wouldn’t be here today building a future together.
Mr. FAF has become more frugal, stopped eating out all the time, and agreed to max out his 401(k) partly because of me, so I’d like to take credit for it.
Sometimes it just takes one question for someone to change their life, their finances, and their family tree.
If you are still single and are interested in someone or if you are in a relationship and want to pop the question, don’t hesitate to do so when the time is right. It’ll help your health and finances in more ways than you can ever imagine.
There might be more instances when asking a question has helped save us hundreds if not thousands of dollars.
Another one that’s kind of obvious is asking for a raise and/or a promotion. I personally have never done that, so I didn’t include it on the list.
Why, you might ask. It’s because I’m afraid of getting fired and causing tension between my boss and myself.
I know a person at work tried to ask the same boss for a raise. She got a small raise, but there was a lot of back and forth between her and the boss. She finally left the job.
Asking a question might sound easy, but it means we need to overcome ourselves and our fear of rejection. It takes practice and confidence. If you have the desire to save money, it might motivate you to ask the question even more. And it should.