In order to reach my early retirement goals I have to save a large portion of my income and invest it. Typically I try and save over 50% of my after-tax take home pay. The typical recommend rate is 10% if you start a relatively young age, but I want to retire early so this involves a more diligent savings strategy. To save more than 50% I focus on two areas: (1) Increasing income and (2) reducing expenses. For this article I’m going to talk about a very powerful and often underutilized method of reducing costs or increasing income. What’s the secret? Save money and earn more by asking for it. In many case I’ve been able to save such a high percentage of my income by simply asking for a cheaper price, or by asking for more money.
Asking for what you want can have surprising results. I frequently ask for things cheaper and I find more often than not I end up getting what I want or close to it. The key here is that you have to actually ask for it! A lot of people get embarrassed by asking for something cheaper, or feel that because others don’t do it then they shouldn’t either. In these cases the only barrier is yourself. What’s the worst they can do? They can say No, and then you’re in the exact same spot as when you started.
I’ve gotten more used to asking for what I want, so it’s easier for me now. It’ll feel weird at the start, but stick with and I think you’ll be surprised by the results. When asking for something you want in an unconventional setting it is important to be friendly and not come off combative. State your case, and explain why you want it, and keep an open mind. They may respond with No, which is fine, but at least you asked.
When asking for something you want, some creativity helps. I’ll try and give you a few examples. Say you want to book a hotel room, or a trip. Try contacting management and asking for a better rate. Make sure you are talking to the right person. It’s important when you ask for something that you are speaking to someone who has the authority to give it to you. They usually want to see some benefit for them, so offer to right a good review on Trip Advisor, or some equivalent. If they say they can’t give you a better rate, try asking for a free upgrade. In some cases you will be told No, but I’ve found that a lot of times it’ll be a yes.
I’ve been told by a cell phone company that they were unable to give any more ongoing discounts (For example $15 off per month), because of the existing ones already in place. That’s fine, what about a one time credit? Turns out they can do that with the account. $100 later, I’m smiling. Sometimes you’ll be told No, but with some creativity you can sometimes get something else instead.
Another example is the temp role I’m in right now. When I started looking for work in Australia, I just wanted to find a job as quick as possible, so that I could start earning money to support my travels. Because I wouldn’t be working at one place for a long time it was more important for me to get work quickly, rather than spending a lot of time looking for work. I found a rather entry level job right away that paid decently. Flash forward two and half months, and the end of my contract is coming up. By this time my boss knows the position I’m doing is below me, considering my skill set, but they like me and it’s the only short term role they have. I know the company is struggling and losing money, so I think about what I want. I’d like to work for another two months after which point I’ll be travelling for a few months, but I’d also like to go on some smaller trips/excursions in between that time. So I want to earn some more money, but have increased flexibility. I talk to my boss, explain my situation and ask if they’ll pay for my annual accounting dues, and if it’s ok if I’m more flexible with my hours. My boss says that’s fine. Great, I now have some of my expenses covered, and if I want to leave early on some days and make up the time on other days, or take a day or two off that’ll be fine. That isn’t the norm in the office I work in, but by asking for it and explaining my situation I was able to get what I wanted.
I knew that the company I’m working for would have difficultly giving a raise based on their budget, so rather than ask for a raise from them I asked for expense reimbursement and more flexibility. For a direct raise I asked the temp agency that technically employs me and for them to take it out of their margin. I sent them an email explaining that I’m doing well at the job, my boss likes me and they want to extend the contract another two months. I explain that I’m making the temp agency look good and that my work will lead to more placements for the temp agency and that I’m a low maintenance client as very little additional work will be needed to extend the contract. The temp agency gives me a call back and informs me that unfortunately they don’t give raises that come out of their margin. The only way would be if the company was willing to pay more for me. I explain that they have a budget and they won’t pay more. The temp agency needed to confirm it themselves, so I let them. The temp agency confirms this with the company and a few days later call me up and say that they are willing to make an exception and give me a raise. Granted the raise wasn’t a huge amount, but every bit helps. Had the temp agency come back and told me that they couldn’t give a raise out of their margin, I was going to ask for an iPad, which I could see they were offering in a contest they were running. It turns out I got the raise, so I didn’t bother with this, but it helps to think creatively when you are expecting a NO. Between the temp agency and the company I was able to get a raise and my accounting dues covered which is great, but the real bonus is the added flexibility with my time as this is very important while I travel.
Morale of the story, ask for things you want and be creative. The worst they can say is no.
Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)
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