There are certain expenses in life like property taxes, healthcare, medical costs and groceries that seem fixed, but they’re not. According to Elisabeth Leamy, author of the book Save Big, all of these so-called “fixed expenses“ are negotiable. In fact, she’s helped people save thousands by applying a few negotiating techniques.
Basically says Leamy, this is a tricky economy and you need to adjust your attitude. Practically everyone needs to save money these days so it’s time to re-think certain expenses you once considered fixed and unchangeable. Leamy says most supposedly "fixed" costs can be negotiated, refinanced or shopped around.
For example, if you rent, try negotiating for a better rate. It costs landlords a lot of money to leave properties empty, so if you're a good tenant, that’s has a certain value to them. Research the incentives your landlord and other nearby buildings are offering new tenants, and use that as leverage to negotiate a lower rent.
If you own a home, interest rates are at near record lows. Are you in a position to refinance? It's worth refinancing if you can get half a point off your rate, if you’ll add no more than five years to the length of your mortgage and can still pay your closing costs off in five years or less -- preferably much less. If you can’t get approved at a big bank, try a credit union. Credit unions pay attention to your situation, not just your credit score.
If you’re a homeowner you pay property taxes. Have you ever tried to appeal your assessment? Many local jurisdictions haven’t caught up with current home prices and are still using market values from early 2008 to assess homes. This is the time of year that assessments get mailed out. Appeals take about the same amount of work as fighting a traffic ticket -- with a much bigger payout. Leamy says she knows of a New Jersey man who stood to save $5,000 a year if he won his appeal.
How about car payments? Did you know you can refinance your car loan? If your vehicle isn’t too old and you’re not underwater on the value, you should consider it. Once again, credit unions are the place to turn. They do more of these auto loan refinances than anybody else.
You probably already know how various insurance costs range considerably from one company to another. Leamy says one New York family saved more than $2,000 a year on car insurance just by shopping around. Approach an independent agent who represents many different companies. She adds that a Virginia family of seven saved nearly $7,000 on health insurance by shopping around through an independent agent. There are savings to be had on homeowner's insurance too.
You probably budget the same amount every week for groceries. Now you know grocery prices aren’t fixed but did you also know that there are some people who manage to save as much as 80 percent on their food and household supplies? Leamy says one simple way to start saving like that is to follow what the supersavers are doing to get huge discounts. They’ll post their best finds online on their blogs. Just buy what they buy. A good site to check is www.becentsable.net, which has compiled a list of these grocery supersavers by state and store. You can also try the site's inexpensive grocery workshops, which take you through the savings process step by step.
Like grocery costs, medical costs aren't fixed either. The key is to behave like a consumer rather than a patient when you interact with a medical professional. A Harris Interactive Poll found that 70 percent of people who asked a hospital for a price break got one. Most doctors are also open to negotiating, especially if you're willing to pay upfront, because they spend thousands chasing after patients and insurance companies to pay their bills. Even the cost of medication is flexible. Look up the meds you take on a website such as www.rxaminer.com or www.destinationrx.com, and you’ll find that some stores offer them for far less than others do. These sites also list less-expensive alternative and generic drugs that you might be able to take instead.