A Financial Education Event

Polite Bargaining – 8 Ways to Negotiate on Everything


My longtime friend, Edith and I found heaven on earth this past weekend and we were determined to milk it for all it was worth. Milk chocolate that is! We took a day trip to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA from her new house in Mechanicsburg and we racked up the discounts all day. There was a Groupon for four special events: a chocolate tasting, the 4D chocolate experience, a trolley ride and build your own candy bar. We saved 30% on those bundled tickets.

Chocoholics forever 

When we had lunch and bought tons of candy to take to our chocoholic friends and family, we got a military discount. When we left, we were astonished to realize that our 3 hours of free parking had grown to $45 for the 6 hours we were there! When we went to pay, Edith (who has 20+ years of military service) asked for a veteran’s discount and we breezed through the exit with a 100% parking discount. We were on a sugar high and a savings high as well! 

My grandma Laudeman used to quote a Bible verse that has stuck with me throughout my whole life: “you have not because you ask not.”

Even though I was a shy person growing up, I was never shy about parting with less of my hard-earned money if there was a chance I could save some bucks.

So, how do you bargain in every day matters without embarrassing yourself or your family? Consumer Reports says that 89% of those who regularly ask for discounts get a “yes” on that discount at least once. Those are good odds.

Here are 8 tried and true ways that can help you become a polite negotiator.  

Everything Is Fair Game – Almost everything in retail goes on sale at some point, so why not try to create your own sale? A retailer may not want to give the sale to everyone, but they may give you a discount if they are still making a profit. Ask the manager if the item has recently been on sale, if it is going on sale soon or if they can sell it at a discount. One college student in Chicago routinely asks for the “good guy discount” because he’s a good guy and they’ll be a good guy if they give him a discount. If you’re military, use the Scout app to find those discounts. Don’t forget the classic money saver, RetailMeNot for additional savings.

Find Something Wrong – A makeup smudge, a missing button or a slight hole along a seam that is easily repaired are all good reasons for a big discount. Show the sales clerk or manager the damaged area and ask for a 30% discount, you can settle for less, but ask for more since it can’t be sold as brand new.

Do Your Research – Comparison shop online using apps like Amazon which has a barcode scanner that you can use when you’re in a store to immediately find the item on Amazon and check its price. Just choose the camera icon next to the search bar and hold it over a barcode. You can do the same thing with Walmart Savings Catcher, which is a part of their regular app. Show the manager the comparison price and ask if they will match it. Check out Yelp to also get check in discounts and review the vendor.

Use Your Expertise – If you are a geek at an electronics store or at a gaming outlet, talk with the sales person and capitalize on your mutual passion for the products. But don’t be a bore and inundate them with a one-way monologue. Instead, build a rapport with the sales person by asking them questions and letting them be the expert they are. You’ll come across as a qualified buyer who is worthy of a discounted price.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Professionals with Titles – Just because someone is an MD, CPA, or a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t get a discount. One lady was told her eye surgery was going to be 10K and she didn’t have insurance coverage for the procedure. She told the doctor that it was too much and “could he work with her to get it for less?” He told her that besides the big city practice he had (where she saw him) he also had a smaller office in a neighboring smaller city. If she went to that smaller office, he would reduced his fee to $1000, use the smaller clinic that charged a lot less than the hospital surgery room and they got a discounted rate on the anesthesiologist as well. The new price on the surgery? $2800

Buy Everything in Bulk—Even Services! It’s hard for most vendors to turn down cold, hard, cash. I have learned to negotiate paying for services in advance to save even more. These would be known vendors you work with frequently and trust. At my mail and more store where I have a PO Box, I paid for a year and asked for a deal I saw elsewhere where they offered 2 months for free by paying the full year—he gave it to me in seconds. For haircuts, spa treatments, and massage treatments, I’ll prepay anywhere from 5 to 10 services at a 30% discount. Then we keep up with services as we go along, counting down to the next bulk payment. This works especially well for services you know you will get regularly.

Get Discounts on Existing Service by Mentioning the C Word – Take those sale circulars you get in the mail, are hanging on your door, or you find in the paper and call your existing provider to renegotiate your current service. Whether you are getting cable service, cell phone service, entomology or house cleaning services. Call your current provider, tell them you want to “cancel” or talk to the cancellations department. You’ll likely be transferred to a department that has more authority to offer you freebies to keep your business. If you mention the introductory pricing from one of their competitors, you might not get that exact price, but you could use it as leverage to get deeper discounts on your current service.

Be Willing to Walk Away- Whether you are in a department store or a Turkish bazaar, decide ahead of time what your “comfortable” price is for the goods or service you are negotiating. Decide this ahead of time so you won’t get caught up in the moment. My favorite words, when discussing prices, are: “I don’t feel good about that price.” Then the seller usually tries to find out what price I would feel good about. I’ve often been stopped while walking away with a lower price that will seal the deal. And if I’m not followed out with the promise of a bargain? That’s OK, too, I can feel good about walking away if I don’t get the price that floats my boat!   


I have a friend who is a newly single mom and her part time job is making phone calls to get discounts on existing payments she must make. We figured she is earning about $50/ per hour for her time investment. She has talked to utility providers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and the city to get free items such as light bulbs, a/c filters, a refrigerator, a swamp cooler (also installed free), low moisture landscaping and much more. She’s a firm believer in “you have not because you ask not.”

What’s your bargaining story? Let me hear from you!

A Drama Queen’s College Savings Tips

I read an excellent blog on #USAA about 4 Smart Moves when saving money in college. It reminded me of a time many years ago, I remember hearing the sound of a child crying. It sounded like it was coming from the back of the house. When I opened the door to my daughters room, I found my then five-year-old Bethany sobbing into her pillow. Crying wasn’t terribly unusual for our “Bunny,” as she could have starred in a movie called I was a Preschool Drama Queen. She was usually laughing and hopping for joy, but she did have an occasional bad day and when she did, we had to watch out!

“What’s wrong, Bunny-rabbit?” I asked as I stroked her hair.

“Well… it’s… just.” She tried to catch her breath.

“…it’s just. It’s just that…” her tiny frame shook as she tried to compose herself.

“I’m going to… (whimper) to go away for college!” At this, her sobbing started all over again.

Apparently, she had a friend whose much older sibling just graduated from high school and was headed off to college. So Bethany was under the impression that when she “graduated” from kindergarten, we were going to ship her off to school.

Thankfully, we were able to keep Bethany around for another 13 years, but she did eventually go away to college—and graduated over a year ago. Here are some more tips we gave each of our children as they went away to college to save money on school and to put it towards their coffee budgets instead!


  1. Buy Books Online: It’s way cheaper to buy books online instead of used at the bookstore. For example, my son Daniel got a journalism book that was $30 used at a bookstore, but he found it for $1.50 online. Amazon usually has the best deals for books, but Campus Books compares prices across the Internet and finds the best deals new and used. Just be sure you buy them at least two weeks before classes.
  2. Avoid The Meal Plans: First off, college-based meal plans are usually unhealthy (fast food, fried, high calorie, high carbs, etc.). Second, they are way more expensive than just buying your own groceries. Consider buying the cheapest meal plan, or none at all. simply cut a few coupons, and don’t buy the expensive brand stuff at grocery stores, and you’ll do fine (you can eat fancy later!).
  3. Take Tests! There are many exams that can be taken for college credit, such as CLEP, SAT II, and more. These tests usually run around $50-$75, but if you pass, it’s a lot better than shelling out over a thousand dollars for the course.
  4. Don’t Be Afraid To Live Modestly: From the dorm furnishings to clothes, you don’t have to live flashy in college. Just because other young adults are spending their money foolishly doesn’t mean you have to. College is just a step before getting a job where you can earn some real money and but the little things you want. Ross, T.J. Maxx, and Marshalls are great for clothes, and there’s always great clearance furniture items at stores that will serve your purpose.
  5. Find a Roomie: If you’re searching for an apartment, or even a dorm room, it is better to split the cost with one, two, or more people. Sure it’s always better living by yourself, but you have the rest of your life to do that if you want. Many colleges also have the option of getting a single or a double room. Double is always cheaper, and a great lesson in learning to live with someone else!

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

8 Free Apps to Save You Money

Earlier this week, we talked about how you can save money on your smart phone. But what about saving money with your smart phone? There are hundreds of apps out there that help simplify your life, but here are a few that are free, but will save you money.

  • The Coupon App—Coupons for stores and services around the country right on your phone. Not only are there real time apps, but you can find the cheapest gas prices at local stations, price comparison shopping tool with the barcode scanner, and you can share coupons through text and email.
  • The Coupon App—Coupons for stores and services around the country right on your phone. Not only are there real time apps, but you can find the cheapest gas prices at local stations, price comparison shopping tool with the barcode scanner, and you can share coupons through text and email.
  • RetailMeNot—This is one of my favorite websites, and you may have heard me refer to it before, but now they have an app! Save at your favorite stores with these coupons. One of the things I love about this app is that it alerts you of special coupons and deals in your favorite stores when you are out shopping at the mall.
  • Belly—This one-of-a-kind loyalty app allows you to get unique free rewards for the things you buy most. You simply scan your app at participating stores and let the points rack up. In the app store, look for a blue icon with a dog. Unfortunately, it is only available in select cities nation-wide, but it is spreading fast. To see if your city utilizes Belly, go to http://bellycard.com/locations/. If you don’t see it in your location, check out Spot On as well. It is another great rewards app to save you money.
  • Starbucks—I don’t know how much of a coffee drinker you are, but I know my family consumes gallons daily. Make sure you are getting your rewards! This app makes it simple to not only track your rewards, but pay with your phone as well. Even if you aren’t much of a Starbucks fan, the app also sends select song downloads to your phone weekly.
  • LivingSocial, Groupon, Google Offers—What is your favorite deal site? Chances are they have an app that goes along with it. You are able to find the deals, and often you can redeem them directly from your phone. Some of these apps even let you discover awesome deals close to wherever you are or alert you when there is a great deal right next to you. I will never forget the time I was able to get a massage and eat at a nice restaurant in the same day, both deals from an alert from one of these apps.
  • Eventsbite—This is a great app for finding awesome events happening near you all year long. This app helps you find upcoming events for the week or weekend, and recommends events happening near you. My daughter, Bethany and her friend, Darbi,(see photo) were able to get VIP tickets to a fun, fashion week event in Chicago using this app. They had a great time and won prizes. You never know what adventures could be in store for you!
  • Google Field Trip–Looking for something to do with the kids this summer? Google is offering free admission to some of the nation’s most popular zoos and museums through its Field Trip app. An offer spanning 23 locations, options include everything from President Lincoln’s Cottage in Washington D.C. to the Bronx Zoo in New York City. Admission just requires showing a free pass to the attraction, which will appear automatically in the “Nearby” tab when you’re at a participating zoo or museum.
  • RoadNinja—Road trips just got a little bit easier with RoadNinja in your pocket. Billboards become redundant when users can learn the locations of restaurants, gas stations and points of interest near every highway exit. View real-time gas prices and access RoadNinja special offers and coupons.

What are YOUR favorite apps to use to save money?

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R) 

Three, Four or More – Help for Families With Lots of Kiddies!

What do parents do to get by in our economy when they have 3, 4 or more kids? As a mom of seven, I’ve been asked how I handled buying clothing on one military man’s income. Here are some tips for you to share with your friends who are raising a gaggle of great kids! 

Top Tips To Buy Clothing For 3, 4, or More

  • Budget – This is fairly basic, but if you don’t already have a household budget with a clothing budget allocated, then you’re setting your large family up for failure.  The clothing allowance for most family budgets is 5% to 8% of your total budget.  Determine what this amount is and purpose to stay within that budget. For an online budget, go to my tools at Ellie Kay.com  This will cut down on debt and in the long run, help to de-stress your financial situation.
  •  Investment Purchases – For parents of larger families, buying clothing should be a carefully considered investment. Cheaper is not better for three, four, or more children.  For example, if you spend $25 on jeans for Billie (because they are better quality) rather than $12 for cheaper brand, they’re going to also last for Billie’s younger brother, too.  In the long run, higher quality clothing can be passed down the line and will save you from having to spend an additional $12 on another pair of cheap jeans for the next sibling.  Consider the quality, durability and wear of the clothing you buy and consider it an investment.
  • Unisex Clothing – If your children are different sexes then it’s impossible to pass along clothing, right? Wrong.  When you buy jeans for older children, try to get ones that are not gender specific. Do the same thing for coats, plain shirts, t-shirts, belts—even hoodies.  Some great low cost online clothing sites are NoMoreRack Overstock and even eBay .  If you are getting ANYTHING on line, before you select “purchase” check for coupons codes first at RetailMeNot . Or, another alternative is to go to  Save1.com, a family owned coupon and loyalty site representing more than 5,000 of the top online merchants. What makes us different this site different is that when someone shops from Save1 to save money, they provide a healthy meal to a malnourished child through one of thier non-profit feeding partners.
  • New to You Wardrobe – A very creative approach to clothing your child is to trade out all the clothing you cannot pass to your other children with another more than four family.  Look for people in your moms group, gym, workplace, neighborhood, or church who have quality clothing and a child who is a year or two older than the child you need to outfit.  Then, see if they have a different child that you can outfit from your child’s outgrown clothing.  Swap your quality clothing for theirs and your child will have a new wardrobe.  It’s still important to get a few brand-new things for each child, like shoes, so that they will feel special and won’t have to wear hand-me-downs all the time. But the swapped clothing can be especially great for two categories of clothing:  1) play clothes, which are going to be soiled and stained frequently.  And 2) church clothing, which are usually in better shape to begin with because they’re not worn as often. You can also find free items at Freecycle.
  • Don’t Whine—Consign! – For an easy credit at your local, quality consignment store, gather all your children’s outgrown clothing and take it in. Be sure it is clean, buttons are sewn on tightly (and all there) and that it is pressed if necessary—this extra care and effort will garner you a better credit.  Then use that credit to purchase your child’s clothing for the current season. To see if a consignment store is worth your time and effort, read their reviews on Yelp.

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)