Talk Down Hospital Bills“Never take your bill at face value. If the charges don’t make sense, call and ask for an itemization. People often get charged for medicine they never took because they were discharged or transferred before the prescription was dispensed. And don’t feel bad about negotiating: I once got a 40 percent discount on a procedure by offering to pay the same day.”
—Retired hospital-billing worker, 26 years in the business
Start Your Own Loyalty Program“I tried a new tailor and was shocked by the prices, so I asked if I could get a discount for paying in cash and posting a good review on their website. They gave me 15 percent off. I also mentioned I’d be bringing in a lot of clothes in the future. When I asked if I could get a loyalty discount, I saved another 5 percent.”
—Antoinette Powell, Tucker, Georgia
Drive a Hard Bargain“Never accept the first estimate from anyone, no matter how honest he seems. Give him a chance to explain his offer, ask if that’s his best price and then tell him what you’d like to pay. When he smiles and says he can’t match it, tell him, ‘Thanks’ and ‘Have a nice day.’ You’ll usually be offered another price before you walk away. That’s exactly what happened when I requested estimates for repairs to my house and yard after a storm. I was quoted more than $10,000 and got the job done for about $8,000.”
—Heather Seibert Jenks, Winterville, North Carolina
Don’t Accept Used Car Parts“If you’re ever in an accident, make sure to specify to your insurance company that you won’t accept used parts in the repair. (Depending on your policy, you may have to pay the difference in costs.) My shop receives old parts from insurance companies all the time that we’re then expected to use. We don’t want to put a junkyard part in your car, knowing it could break or cause problems, but our hands are tied. The insurance company may not tell you, but you can—and should—ask for all new parts.”
—Mechanic, 17 years in the business
Be Appy“I download a store’s app, and when I check out, I ask the clerk if there are any discounts in the app that could apply to my purchase. I saved 65 percent on craft supplies when the cashier took my phone and pulled up coupons for many of the items I was buying.”
—Janene Larson, Portland, Oregon
Charm the Front Desk Guy“People tend to undervalue the front desk agent—we’re one of the few positions in a hotel that gets passed over for tips—but a little gratuity at check-in goes a long way. Hand me $10 or $20—at the very least, don’t tip less than the price of a beer—and I will stop assigning you to the room I was going to put you in and start looking for something better.
I know which rooms have the bigger closets, the double bathrooms, the best views. And it doesn’t hurt to call ahead. On the morning of your check-in, room controllers start designating rooms for those on our VIP list. If you call ahead, you’ll be one of them. If you can’t tip or call, be kind. You’ll get a room that’s better than the ones we give guests who stay on their phones during the check-in process.”
—Jacob Tomsky, former hotel employee, more than ten years in the business, and author of Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality
Get Social“On Twitter, I follow the airlines I use most often as well as travel bloggers who share valuable information and money-saving tips, like @WomenTravelFest and @FrugalTravelGuy. I frequently fly from D.C. to Jacksonville, Florida, and I’ve learned that by booking my return for Monday morning instead of Sunday evening, I can cut the price of my ticket by 35 percent.”
—Kimberly Miller, Washington, D.C.
Buy a New Car at Month’s End“Dealerships have monthly sales goals, so we’re more motivated to move cars at the end of the month as our deadline is fast approaching. And if the car you want is in stock, as opposed to one we have to seek out, we’re more likely to negotiate since we have an incentive to sell the models we have on hand.”
—Car dealer, 11 years in the business
Watch and Wait“Go to PoachIt.com, drag the Poach button to the bookmarks bar in your web browser and click on it when you see something you want to buy online. The tool will track a product’s price and alert you as soon as it goes on sale. I rely on it for most big purchases and recently saved about 20 percent on an armoire.”
—Aimee Rincon, Dallas
Saving By the Numbers54: The number of days before your vacation you should book to get the cheapest domestic airfare, according to 2013 data.
46: The percentage of people who successfully negotiated lower rates for their cable TV, Internet and phone packages by up to $50 a month, according to a March 2014 survey by the Consumer Reports National Research Center.