sometimes you have to ask

Source: via Mary on Pinterest


I once hated returning things. And negotiating.

In fact, I never really grasped store return policies (and how great they can be) until I was in university in the US. A roommate of mine returned a pair of year old shoes to Nordstroms department store. The sole had started to separate from the rest of the shoe. I was blown away that they took them back and replaced them. No questions asked.

Maybe it’s a Canadian thing. Or a British thing (my parents came to Canada as newlyweds from Scotland). For a long time I never returned things. If they broke, wore out quickly or did not perform as advertised, I felt like it was my bad luck as a consumer. In my mind returning something was akin to begging. I know, that is some messed up logic.

Things have changed. Now if something breaks, or wears out quickly, I send it back to get repaired or replaced. I keep receipts for all big items and for anything small I paid cash for. If I lose a receipt and paid for it with a credit card, I use a copy of the credit card statement as proof of purchase.

As I become a more conscious and savvy consumer I am also working on my negotiating skills. I’m asking more.

Recently the asking has resulted in some big savings for us.

In August we negotiated a rent reduction of 150/month ($240  USD). We initially negotiated a smaller rent reduction, found a flat next door at a better price, and served notice that we would be moving out. Our landlord eventually came back to us with a larger rent reduction.

A few weeks ago I read an article on mortgage rates and told Chris we should look into our current rate and if we could get it reduced. A few emails with our mortgage rep later and we are now paying .5% less over the next five years. It is saving us thousands of dollars.

You have to ask. Be polite, remove the emotion from the situation, but ask. What’s the worst that can happen? They say no.

We want to continue to remain consumer debt-free, accelerate our mortgage payments and give more. Living simply and with less stuff is the biggest contributor to those goals. Negotiating lower prices and reduced bills is the gravy.

If you’re in debt it’s even more important that you ask. Consolidation loans, reduced interest rates, better deals on your cable or cell phone bills. All of these money saving opportunities are out there for you. You just have to ask.

Has anyone else recently reduced a payment or negotiated a better deal on a purchase or service? Any tips?


Thank you to everyone that has supported my book project with your comments here, by sharing this blog with friends or purchasing the book – and your patience when I took a blogging break in August to work on it.

I’m very happy to announce that we’ve raised $120 for CARE! Add to that $25 that a reader donated when I sent her an advance copy. So a total of $145 was raised through book sales and the generous readers here. Thank you. I’m still surprised and honoured at the number of you that read this blog, write insightful comments and share our minimalist journey with your friends and family. It feels really good to harness the power of living with less into a monetary donation for maternal healthcare in a developing nation. Many, many thanks.

I’ve been offline a lot this week as Henry and I made a very last minute decision to fly to Vancouver for a two week visit (thank you awesome employer that pays for expat trips home!). A series of unfortunate events has conspired to keep Chris here for two weeks (or more). Luckily, it’s our hometown. We are soaking up city life and visiting friends and family as much as possible. I’ve already consumed a few checklist treats that I can’t get on the Isle of Man: sushi, nachos and a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha.

This trip means that we won’t be ‘home’ for Christmas. It will be my first Christmas away from family ever. Looking forward to it as a milestone, the beginning of our little family starting our own traditions and a different holiday experience. You get lemons, make lemonade, right? And, there’s always Skype.

I’m not sure what this will mean for my posting schedule here for the next two weeks. Forgive me if I am a bit light on the words – thanks!



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  • Thanks for the thought on negotiating rent! We are paying more than we would like and were considering moving when our lease in up in an attempt to save more money (for house purchasing!).
    Instead, I think we will look around and ask them to reduce the price.

      • A coworker negotiated a rent decrease when faced with his annual decrease by using economic arguments. At the time rents were falling in nyc. My mom negotiated a rent reduction by showing her out of town landlord that she is neat and respectful of the apartment and that the extra $100 a month prevented her from renewing the lease.

  • I’d LOVE to hear how you got your rate reduced! We are currently on a 30 year fixed rate, and from what I heard, if we wanted it reduced, we’d have to pay points or something–not exactly sure, but seems so confusing!

    As for me, I’m a big fan of returning items. When items break, I try to hold onto receipts and the booklets that come with. What I’m finding is that they will send you free parts BUT you have to pay for shipping. It seems silly, but this is how they get you! Recently, my phone malfunctioned, and it took a trip to the store and several phone calls to get the same phone shipped to me for free. That was a victory. Otherwise, I’m still trying to negotiate with the company that made my food processor to send us replacement parts for free when the thing got so hot it fuzed together. I figure if they make the shoddy product, they need to pay for replacement parts, including shipping. We’ll see what happens!

    Glad you found the value in returns & negotiation!

    • We resigned for five years at a fixed rate and they blended our current rate with their lowest rate. We could have paid a huge fee to get out of the old mortgage and just get the lowest rate but it would have only been for five years. We crunched the numbers and it didn’t make sense. I know how confusing it can be. If you can, go sit down with your mortgage rep and ask them to explain everything. We did the mortgage signing at the bank and were able to ask more questions and play with the numbers a bit. We have upped our payments quite a bit but at any time they can be lowered back to the original rate amount we started with in 2009.

      Mortgages in the US work a bit differently than in Canada. Go in and ask – what’s the worst that can happen? :) Good luck!!

  • I’ve negotiated lower monthly charges for services such as cable, internet, and insurance. Also, I had luck recently getting my cell phone provider to waive the $35 fee for a new line. I think the key is being respectful and pleasant when asking for the lower rate. It also doesn’t hurt to mention how long you’ve been a customer (assuming more than a few years) and how satisfied you are with the level of service that you currently have.

  • My first Thanksgiving away from family- not so bad. But I’m not going to lie, the first Christmas felt like much less of holiday without family gatherings. On a positive note, it really gave our little family a chance to think of our own traditions instead of spending the day hustling around town.

  • Congrats on the success of the book so far! Great news!

    I’m terrible at returning things, though I’ve made a point to try and sincerely tackle our debt so I suppose this is something I should consider as part of that.

  • I have had a lot of success with warranties on high end outdoor clothing/gear. I find that it is worthwhile to spend more money for the stuff that comes with limited lifetime warranties, and to buy from stores like MEC, who stand behind everything they sell. Most of the high end companies like to maintain their brand profile, so they will rarely, if ever, deny a warranty claim.

    Recently, I sent a very well worn five-year-old Mountain Hardwear jacket in for warranty evaluation, and came out with a brand new jacket that was even more expensive than the original! It was totally worth the $20 or so in shipping fees :)

      • Yes, MEC is great. One time, they sent off one of my backpacks for repair and then gave me a loaner pack to use for the three weeks it would take to get my bag fixed! Another time, they took back a one year old pair of hiking boots that I felt were showing excessive wear for their age, and they gave me full store credit to buy a new pair.

        Interesting reading about Patagonia. I have a whole new respect for that company.

  • I always negotiate – only yesterday I queried a bill. When I booked I was told my 3 year old probably wouldn’t be charged as he wasn’t having a full size meal. Then I was charged. I wasn’t rude, but did explain. No embarrassment felt by me, or made to feel by them.
    Have a fab time over in Vancouver!

  • I negotiate all the time. Especially with companies that sell the TV station packages. You see, my husband NEEDS (or at least that is what he thinks)his TV! I personally think its a waste! He has to keep the cost below a certain amount or off it goes. So, if I can’t negotiate a lower amount with the company, then he can try and if he can’t off goes the TV.

  • Good for you for asking and thanks for sharing! I completely agree that you have to take the emotion out of it. My only tip would be to have your spouse/partner negotiate for you if you’re more likely to be emotional about something and vice versa. I negotiated the price for our car and ended up paying a lot less than my husband would have paid. The key was I could have cared less….

  • I just found your blog and I’ve been enjoying it. I especially enjoyed the post about not being married to a minimalist. Dh has a history of being a bit of a packrat, but is slowly coming around. He agreed this morning to pare down his clothes over Thanksgiving weekend. We’ve been talking about getting rid of our cable, but haven’t quite taken the plunge.

  • I think we Canadians are pretty timid in the negotiating department – I am reminded of this all the time when my friends from other cultures or countries tell me they have negotiated hundreds of dollars off a large purchase (like a Dyson vacuum!) I totally agree with you that there’s no harm in asking, the worst they can do is say no! On the subject of warranties, it’s a good idea to check into if your credit card offers insurance on purchases before you buy anything – I bought an eReader last December and then promptly dropped it on the floor two days after I bought it. Oops. Thankfully my credit card offers insurance on purchases that get lost, stolen or broken within 90 days – can’t tell you how grateful I was for that!

    ps. if you’re still in Vancouver, would you like to get together for coffee and a playdate? :)

  • Just was introduced to your blog. I LOVE your latest post about negotiating. I spent many years negotiating our credit card debt after it had all been turned over to creditors. It was a VERY long and tedious process, but I am so glad that I did it. Take a look at my story on Thanks for all your sharing…it’s good to know I am not the only one. AMY

  • Sorry to hear you will not be home for the holidays, I will be seeing family this year, but it has been almost 10 years since I’ve spent the holidays with my family. Sounds like you have the right approach in starting NEW traditions.

    I am not a haggler, I usually look at the price and accept it as is. However I did once get a pair of designer boots at The Bay for a lesser price. All I did was say I saw them cheaper at another store and was not going to buy them, and they matched the cheaper price, no questions asked. Needless to say I was shocked! But it proves it never hurts to ask, and it helps that you are prepared to walk away if they say no.

  • Congrats on the book Rachel!

    I’m a terrible negotiator. My husband on the other hand enjoys it. He’s negotiated the best mortgages for our rental properties and is never too afraid to ask for a lower price. I wish I could be more like him.

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