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Friday, July 3, 2009

The Art of Negotiation

I am sitting here reading The Complete Tightwad Gazette when I come across the section about negotiating. Amy Dacyczyn first talks about how Americans are afraid to negotiate which I have found to be true. Why is that? Are we afraid that the vendor will think we don't really have the money in the first place? In my opinion, not negotiating a better deal makes me feel like I appear reckless with money. I also think I look like I have sucker written across my forehead. I am not saying that I always negotiate, but I certainly try whenever applicable. I don't negotiate when the deal is already really reasonable. For example, I don't negotiate at a yard sale for something that is very reasonably priced.

My mother and I have been attempting to teach my child how to negotiate her own deals. She is really good at it, but she also has the cuteness factor on her side. She has been known to negotiate a $3 item down to 50 cents. She does this mostly at yard sales and flea markets for practice. I am hoping this will help her look for better deals in the future. Whenever I want to buy something, I wait and look for the best possible deal before going ahead with purchase.

Everyone should try negotiating a better deal. Do not pay full price when it is not necessary. It would be smart to stay out of retailers as much as possible because you are not likely to get a better deal at major retailers. However, it is not impossible especially when something is slightly damaged. Always ask for a better price on a damaged item!!!

Anyway, I have read Amy Dacyczyn's tips to negotiation. I thought I would share them with you who have never read or heard of the Tightwad Gazette series. I am going to paraphrase a lot here, but the ideas will remain the same.

1. Everything is negotiable - even in retail stores. This is not always true for big retail chains. Look for the owner or manager whenever possible and ask if they will take less. Sales people will not likely have the power to negotiate. In a small store, be discrete. They may not want other shoppers to know they will take less.

2. Negotiating is a human transaction as well as a financial one. Establish a relationship before haggling. You will be able to assess the person's character and motivation before making an offer.

3. Gently guide the discussion to the item at hand. Do not jump into the ask. This reminds me a lot of fundraising, but you need to work your way into the ask. Do not appear overly positive or negative. If you disparage the item, you may hurt your chances of getting a better deal. Appear neutral.

4. Don't rush to discuss prices. Try not to be the first to offer up a price. Let the owner throw out the first number.

5. Once they offer a price, do not counter immediately. This shows the person you were listening to them and is more respectful than countering right away. Take a moment to consider it. Then make your offer - they will likely be more receptive.

6. Before making your counter offer, give your reasons for offering less. They will likely ignore your reasons if you give the price first. They have to listen if you do it before countering.

7. If they still disagree, offer to settle somewhere in the middle. Generally this works. If not, consider walking away from the item. If you aren't willing to pay the middle price, you may not want it badly enough and probably don't need it anyway. Often when you begin to walk away, they will call you back and let you have the item for the lower price. If not, it wasn't meant to be anyway.

Happy Haggling!!

Source: Dacyczyn Amy. The Complete Tightwad Gazette II: Promting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle. New York: Random House, 1998.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Redecorating Used Furniture

I hate buying new furniture. Often, new furniture is not made well unless you spend a terrible fortune. The one time I can say I bought something new and it was worth the money is my entertainment armoire. It was originally around $3000. I bought if for just under $800. It is a good solid piece of furniture and it adds to my home. Otherwise, the new stuff has started to fall apart, looks worn or is just plain boring. Most of all, I hate buying something new because I am just adding one more thing to a landfill eventually. I hate it. I prefer to buy used furniture. I have since I was in college. It's fun, practical and better for the environment.

I prefer to find old furniture at yard sales, thrift stores and estate sales. It's one of my favorite past-times. I have also been able to fill my home with some interesting secondhand pieces. Therefore, I am always on the look out for great websites that tell you how to redo a piece for very little money. I am normally disappointed because I have only been able to find shabby chic style websites. Some have great ideas, but they don't normally fit my style (whatever that is). I am very eclectic. I prefer darker woods mixed with some brighter accents. I paint (not terribly well, but I paint) acrylic abstracts on canvas that I have hung around my home. These make my house a little more colorful. Shabby Chic just doesn't cut it.

Recently, I wrote about This site has a Decor It Yourself section. The ideas listed here are a little more contemporary. They are fun and super cheap. I find that their ideas are best for the under 30 crowd, but anyone can find some inspiration here. From Threadbanger I learned about Now we are talking. I have spent my entire morning gushing over some of the cool makeovers listed on this site. Who would have thought to use contact paper to decorate the outside of a bureau? I certainly wouldn't have, but I am now.

One of my students found me a piano bench and two end tables. I have struggled to come up with something new for these tables. I have been really bad about painting everything black. These website encourage using some color. I think that I can find a really cool color to use. When I get them done, I will post them. The point here is to rethink used furniture. Think outside the box and buy a piece you wouldn't normally grab. You don't have to paint it white or black and do nothing else to it. There are lots of ways to transform a really inexpensive piece. Try to have a little fun with it and redecorate your home for pennies on the dollar!! Good luck.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sewing - Is it making a comeback?

Is sewing going to be cool again? I hope so. I am not the best seamstress, but sewing is an art form that I had feared was a lost art until yesterday! I found the coolest website. It is geared toward the 20 something group, but there are lots of great ideas for the rest of us. The website is It’s really hip and fresh. It has interesting and creative ideas like how to make a $10 wedding dress out of white t-shirts. Tons of the videos are about how to upcycle materials. They even make their own body form out of packing tape, scrap fabric, a stick and a Christmas tree stand. Very cool.

First of all, I am extremely excited about how popular upcycling has become. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s when you take something used and turn it into something new. Recycling means taking something used and turning it back into the same thing. Upcycling takes some creativity. On Threadbanger, a mother takes a man’s sweater and turns it into a capelet for her daughter. Other contributors turn towels into bath rugs or make aprons from old jeans. There are a lot of interesting ideas that are not too difficult. I am seriously thinking this might be how I make Christmas work this year. No one in my family has a lot of money to spend and we like homemade gifts more than purchased gifts anyway. I have a sewing machine just sitting in my craft room begging to be used. Poor thing. I guess I will have to pay it more attention from now on.

Check out Threadbanger and look for YouTube videos that showcase homemade items. Learn to sew again and turn some of your trash into something someone else might treasure. It will save you money and you will possibly learn a new skill you can pass on. Have fun!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Tight Pants Diet!

I have a brand new diet strategy. This is one of the cheapest there is - wear tight pants. Now I am not talking about trying to look like your from an 80's rock video. I am just talking about wearing the pants that almost feel slightly uncomfortable or fit just right. Do not wear baggy clothes when you know you are going to be around food.

Think back to the last special occasion you attended - wedding, birthday party, holiday party, etc, etc. You were wearing a nice pair of slacks or fitted dress. Your clothes fit just tight enough that if you eat one more piece of cake, another roll or one last cocktail your clothes are going to start pinching a little. Were you less likely to eat that other roll? I am not saying that I haven't chanced it. How else would I know that my clothes were going to pinch?

Why not use this to your advantage? Whenever I attend holiday events where my pants are nice and comfy, I find myself eating entirely too much. There are no consequences that are immediately recognizable. When I wear clothes that fit better, I don't overindulge (as much).

So, stop trying to wear sweatpants or elastic waist pants to those functions where you will have ample opportunity to overeat. You know that's why you wear them in the first place. Wear the pants that look great and enjoy just a little food. It won't hurt you.

Oh and have a little snack beforehand. You won' t be ravenous when you get there. Enjoy!!