Don’t Wait, Negotiate: A Simple Winning Strategy for Non-Negotiators

This is a guest post from Scott and Marie at Rainy Day Finances

Scott says…

Wow, what a time to get a good deal! Prices are dropping and bargains are everywhere. However, I’m finding that many of us are still not using basic negotiating skills to drive prices down even more.

So if you aren’t a negotiator here is a quick and easy training lesson that will get you started. All you need to know are the five basic steps:

  • Preparing
  • Planning
  • Pretending
  • Patience
  • Purchasing

Preparing to negotiate

93e2e0b2 a74b 4107 9475 69608ce0088f Dont Wait, Negotiate: A Simple Winning Strategy for Non NegotiatorsPreparing is what we call goal setting. You decide that you want to buy a washer and dryer for the house. You’ve looked around, checked out Consumer Reports, spoken to friends and maybe even talked to a few dealers. Now you have made up your mind on roughly which make and model you want. The next step is to put together your research in a file so that it is available to you when you are shopping. The third step is to list each and every extra benefit that might be offered/added on the purchase such as shipping fees, taxes, discounts, custom colors, coupons, exchanges, disposal fees and the like. The final step is to decide what vendor(s) you are going to pursue.

Planning to negotiate

Planning is the strategy portion of the negotiation process. This is where you figure out how you are going to go about the purchasing of the appliances. What tactics will you use? Will you carry in a budgeted amount of cash? Will your spouse be there to help? How about a take-it-or-leave-it offer or looking for a scratch and dent sale? If you aren’t familiar with these tactics then use this handy dandy, all purpose favorite:

Plan to say to the dealer after every offer, “You’ll have to do better than that” and follow it with a large dose of silence.

Pretending during negotiations

Pretending is what we call “feeling out the other party” or questioning. Pretend means to pretend you don’t know anything about washers and dryers. Let the salesperson educate you on their products and their policies. Ask questions and listen (don’t just hear) them as they speak. By listening I mean to really comprehend what they are saying. For instance, let’s say the dealer tells you that this is a limited time offer. What does limited time mean? Is it being discontinued? Is there a newer and better model coming? Is the appliance not popular or does it have a defect? When the salesperson makes a statement think about what that statement could really mean.

Exercising patience when negotiating

Patience is taking your time to negotiate. This is without a doubt the hardest skill to master and probably the strongest tool at your disposal. Most Americans like for negotiations to go quickly. But when this happens you don’t get enough time to build a relationship with the seller. If the seller is an impatient person you can use patience to force the price to drop by simply stalling or continuing to ask questions. On our blog you can read about the time I kept a salesman standing in the hot Georgia sun for an hour while he tried to sell me a car and the price kept getting lower and lower with each drop of sweat.

Making the purchase after negotiating

Purchasing is the closing of the deal. This is where you agree to the price and prepare to pay the vendor. Watch for unexpected charges and add-ons from the salesperson. If they try to nibble you (there are extra shipping charges on Friday deliveries or you’ll need laundry soap for your new washer) then politely let the salesperson know that you will have to open the negotiations all over again and they have already spent an hour with you.

Go out and negotiate!

Using the simple system of preparing, planning, pretending, patience and purchasing will allow you to negotiate a better price without having to learn a lot of skills. All of these steps are time proven to give you the best deal. So start having fun negotiating and you’ll save money!

Marie says…

Thanks, Scott for the really great deal you got on the new washing machine you bought a few months ago. You saved us $207 off the already low sale price and got free shipping, installation and removal of the old unit. It works great and the spare change I’m getting out of your pants pockets is going to pay for a trip to Alaska!

For more daily negotiating tips check out www.rainydayfinances.com!

Photo by maveric2003

Super-Charged Living: Having A Giving Spirit

This is a guest post by Mary from Simply Forties.

3f36f237 cfcf 49b5 b2d8 6e34b652ae4a Super Charged Living: Having A Giving Spirit When I was trying to come up with a subject for my guest post for Jeff I started thinking about the title of his site, “My Super-Charged Life”. I don’t know what Jeff means by that in relation to his life but I started thinking about what it means in mine.

The best part of my super-charged life is what I can share with others. I believe very strongly in giving. I believe the only way we can really get along in this world is to bring others with us.

How I have chosen to give

I choose to give in many different ways. I give of my time by volunteering at several local community organizations and by being willing to answer the call of others, when needed.

I give of my resources by making financial contributions to several national and global organizations in whose mission I believe.

I donate certain of my possessions for raffles and directly to our local domestic abuse shelter.

I also give of myself by being open and willing to listen to various people in my community who just seem to need a friendly ear. I admit the last is usually the toughest for me!

I know this will be controversial, but I also give to the occasional begging person I come across. Let me quickly say that I don’t come across people like that too often in my small rural community so I certainly can’t relate to issues regarding hoards of homeless people on the lookout for me as I make my way around town. That is not the reality of the situation in which I live.

When I’m in a bigger city, though, I do occasionally come in contact with people who seem down on their luck. I’m not naïve and I do understand that some of the individual people to whom I give may not actually be in need.

Why I give

I give because I see a person who appears to be hurting and to whom I’m blessed enough to be able to give a few dollars without endangering my own well-being and so I do. If that person goes along to the liquor store, oh well. It’s the giving that counts, not what the receiver makes of the gift.

The most important thing is not what you give but that you give. You don’t have to follow my or anyone else’s lead. Nor should you allow others to influence to whom you give.

I’ve read a lot of comments on various Internet boards and in response to articles on charity that highlight the controversy surrounding the issue of giving. I’m always surprised when I come across the heated nature of some of the debates.

The choices we make in giving

There are people out there who adamantly refuse to give to any organizations other than those which support animal causes. There are an equal number of people out there who decry any gift to animals, and wonder how anyone can support an animal shelter when so many children are starving.

There are people who only donate to local causes and people who only donate to global organizations. I believe very strongly in the ripple effect of every deed, good and bad, that we do. We don’t know where the donation we make to someone starving in Myanmar is going to lead.

We don’t know if the surly checkout girl at the grocery store, to whom we found something nice to say, will, as a result, be in a better mood and go out and do something wonderful.

The impact of giving

The more good deeds that are let loose in our global environment, the better the world in which we all live. Don’t know where to start? If you are open and willing, opportunities to help will find you!

I’m Mary from Simply Forties, a 47-year old single mother of a college-aged son. I write about the topics that interest me most as I make my way through my forties – finances, the environment, social responsibility and, sometimes, relationships and dealing with grown children. I hope you’ll stop by my blog and look around. You can also find me every other Thursday over at 5 Minutes for Going Green.

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7 Steps for Achieving a Super Simple Life

This is a guest post by Joy from Just Plain Joy.

65f131b9 3e2d 42b1 83e3 24c659e517a2 7 Steps for Achieving a Super Simple LifeWhen I started Just Plain Joy, I wanted to create an outlet for exploring and defining a simple life. I decided I wanted to pursue a simpler life for several reasons – I wanted to save more money to invest in my child’s future, I wanted more time to spend on the things that matter most to me, and I wanted to reduce my impact on the environment.

The benefits of simpler living have been overwhelming – I worry less about finances, I spend less energy keeping track of my possessions, I have a greater appreciation for natural beauty, I am less concerned about status, and I’m enjoying life!

My 7 steps for achieving a super simple life

Simple has many interpretations. After careful consideration, I chose four concepts to define my interpretation of simple living:

  • clutter-free
  • debt-free
  • organized
  • green

Here are seven steps for achieving a super simple life based on these four concepts:

1. Simplify your home.

The first step to physically simplifying your life is to get rid of the clutter. Start with the room where you spend most of your time (or the one that is most manageable).

Then, move methodically through every drawer, desktop, shelf, and countertop and sort items into three categories – keep, toss, and recycle (these are items that will be given away, donated, or sold). If you are undecided about an item, ask yourself, “Do I love it? Is it useful?” If the answer to both questions is “no,” then don’t keep it.

The second step to physically simplifying is to get organized. Ask yourself, “Where is this item’s permanent home?” Everything you own should have a physical place.

2. Simplify your finances.

As a rule, we tend to spend as much as we earn (or more). To simplify your finances, spend less than you make. This is a basic debt-reduction strategy, but it also allows you to work less and spend more time doing the things that really matter to you.

There are simple strategies for staying out of debt – write down every single thing you spend money on, evaluate your spending habits, create a budget, identify a money management system that works for you, pay down your highest interest debts, create an emergency fund, and pay your bills in full and on time.

3. Simplify your virtual world.

It is easy to be sucked in by email, instant messaging, social networking sites, and online media. Technology can assist you in delegating everyday tasks, but it should not be allowed to overrule the more important things.

Clean out your inbox, choose one social networking site, and minimize your time online. Mastering technology will simplify your life.

4. Simplify your work.

First, stop trying to do it all. You may think you can respond to an email while you are on hold and in the middle of drafting a document, but when you multi-task you are not giving any activity your full attention.

To simplify your work, clean up your physical work space, limit your commitments, find an organizational system that works for you, and learn to delegate.

5. Simplify your day.

Managing ourselves from day to day is about prioritizing our values and goals. Before you decide how to manage your time, you have to identify what is truly important to you in your life. Then, using simple time management tools can help you control how you choose to spend your time.

Create a list of goals, establish a morning and evening routine, schedule time to relax, and leave your weekends unscheduled.

6. Simplify your health.

It is much simpler to stay healthy than to deal with illness. To simplify your health, avoid drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, fill your fridge with fruits and vegetables, stock your medicine cabinet with basic remedies and supplies, exercise regularly, and identify a doctor you can trust.

7. Simplify your philosophy.

Adopting a simple lifestyle can require a shift in thinking. It requires you to accept that what you have is “enough”, learn to let go of the need to be a superachiever, live in the moment, find simple pleasures, and define your identity by reflection rather than by consumerism.

Simple living is not difficult!

It is not necessary to tackle every area of your life at once. If you feel you could benefit from simplifying any of these areas, then I hope this article was helpful. If you are a parent, read about how to simplify your family life.

Joy is a new mom living in a small community in California. She blogs about simple living, budgeting, balancing home and work, and finding joy at www.JustPlainJoy.blogspot.com. She recently completed her PhD in Education and works as a Volunteer Coordinator at a state university.

Photo by bella vita

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Polishing The Stone Of Personal Finance

This is a guest post by Free From Broke.

“This is too difficult! How will I ever be any good?!?”

92ba8d0e 0de1 499d 84d6 d5fe560eda3a Polishing The Stone Of Personal FinanceI’ve been studying the Japanese martial art Aikido for a little over ten years. One of the concepts my Sensei taught me was Polishing the Stone.

When a student starts learning an art they are far from smooth and flowing and struggle to do basic moves. Usually they are a bumbling, clumsy mess. It doesn’t take too many bad falls or rolls for a student to get discouraged and wonder if they will ever get any of the techniques down.

This is where Polishing the Stone comes in. Every student starts off as a rough, jagged stone. Sensei pushes the point that we all started off as a rough stone. Every one of us had a first day on the mat. Only with much practice and insight will we ever become a smooth round stone.

Every day of practice our stone is polished a little bit. You don’t even notice that you’ve learned anything. But as time goes on some of those sharp edges get a little smoother. After a few years the stone starts to get round even. After ten+ years, and my black belt test, I can honestly say my rock is noticeably smooth; round even.

My technique has gotten smoother and my insight into the art has grown significantly over the years to the point where I’m able to help teach. I can’t tell you how many falls I’ve taken or how many times I’ve hit the mat awkwardly though! All the scrapes, cuts, bruises, sprains, soreness – all of it was worth it!

Do you know what it took to get there?

  • Time
  • Patience
  • Work
  • Practice
  • Lots of mistakes

All of these together helped me gain some bit of mastery. But I’m far from done. Learning never ends in this art and you need to continue to practice in order to keep up your technique.

“Wait?!? I thought this was My Super Charged Life? What’s this have to do with anything?!?” you ask.

How many of us were financial geniuses when we got our first paycheck? I’m guessing not many of you are raising your hands? I wasn’t either for sure. See, we all started out in personal finance as a jagged stone. The lessons I learned in Aikido apply to personal finance as well.

Let’s look again:

  • Time – You aren’t going to become wealthy overnight (at least for most of us). It takes time to build up savings. It takes time to build up a retirement nest egg. It takes time to advance in your career. What makes compounding so powerful is time!
  • Patience – This goes hand in hand with time. You need to understand that not everything is going to happen right now. You want that new car? Without patience you might buy one before you have enough saved finding yourself very tight financially. Who doesn’t want a new house? I know I do! But I know I have to wait until I have enough put away to afford one. Sometimes being able to take a step back and wait a little gives you a better perspective. Relax and take a step back before you make that big purchase. You might realize it was impulse that made you want it. Patience grasshopper!
  • Work – You don’t get something for nothing. You have to roll up your sleeves and get sweaty. That career with the great job isn’t going to be handed to you. As well as your career you have to work to learn about your personal finances. There’s reading, there’s research, there’s great blogs such as this…the information doesn’t jump into your head. You have to go out there and learn about personal finance.
  • Practice – I’ve heard that you need to do a technique 10,000 times before you get the hang of it. The next 100,000 times your body develops it’s muscle memory so you can do it without thinking. The next 1,000,000 develops mastery. Think about it…do you get wealthy because you saved money once? Can you retire because you contributed to your 401(k) the first time? We have to practice to develop personal finance habits that become a part of us to the point where it’s second nature.
  • Lots of mistakes – If I only knew then what I know now…I would have taken what savings I had after high school and invested in this growing company called Microsoft. Or I would have built CD ladders so my money could continue to grow. Or I wouldn’t have spent so much on junk which would drive up credit card debt. I could go on. The point is we make mistakes and move on. As long as we learn from our mistakes we’re ok. Don’t expect to be perfect. Don’t be afraid of mistakes either. Welcome them. That’s how we learn.

Remember we all start out the same way. Don’t get discouraged if you feel overwhelmed or don’t understand every single aspect of personal finance. Welcome to the club! You’re a jagged stone that needs polishing. Keep at it and one day you’ll realize your personal finance skills have developed into a smooth, shiny stone!

FFB writes for Free From Broke, a site dedicated to personal finance and how it affects you and your family. Go check out his site and consider subscribing to his RSS feed if you like his content!

Photo by cobalt123

Living in Fear – Too Much Baggage?

This is a guest post by The Happy Rock.

aaf1048c 1c79 40b7 be86 1472d10646e4 Living in Fear – Too Much Baggage?Fear is good. It keeps us safe, keeps us from harm, and keeps us from making terrible mistakes. Fear is healthy, right?

Teach a young child to be afraid to touch the stove because he will get burned and he doesn’t go near the stove. He is safe.

As he grows older he realizes that the stove isn’t something that needs to be feared, but respected. It is a useful tool for cooking yet it is still dangerous.

He moved past the fear with knowledge and action and is now more powerful and more equipped to face the world. We don’t want him to stay in a state of fear and we don’t want to live in fear because it brings along with it too much baggage.

Let’s take of look at some of the downsides of fear so that we can examine our lives for them.

Avoidance

Fear causes us to avoid situations were we can fail, get hurt, be humiliated, be rejected, cause confrontation, or make mistakes, so we actively run in the opposite direction.

Paralyzes

Similar to avoidance, but here you don’t retreat in the opposite ‘safe’ direction, you sit and stare. Your fear cripples, consumes, and haunts you. This is the dear in the headlight syndrome.

Removes Rationality

Fear is almost always from lack of knowledge or love. When we are afraid, we can only act out of a limited set of behaviors rather than being able to rationally accept the truth and make the best decision. Picture a person who is afraid their 401k is going to disappear in a recession and withdrawals all their money. They get hit with a 40% penalty and miss out on the recovery period. Fear can end up making decisions for you.

Short-term and Negative Motivator

Since fear is such a heavy and taxing way to live, people often give up or get fed up. Imagine two people who want to take care of the homeless in their local city. One is motivated out love and compassion and the other is motivated out of fear they will lose their job as director of a homeless mission. Who is going to do a better job? Who is going to be happier? Who is going to make others around them happier? Positive motivators are a much rewarding.

Desensitizes You

A heavy or long enough dose of fear and people begin to block out the emotion. If you want an example, just watch or read the news. Most of us sit almost emotionless through horrendous stories of murder, abuse, and violence. We just can’t process the negative events and the fear it produces all the time, so we end up processing it none of the time.

Viral

Fear spreads. It infects other areas of your life with more fear or more negative attitudes. My fear of being inferior often causes me to be caustic and degrading to those people that are close in order to maintain an imaginary superiority. This in turn tends to close me off to otherwise great and uplifting relationships which further fuels my fear.

Miss Out on the Good Stuff

Fear just isn’t a good way to live. It erodes the truly wonderful things in life like love, giving, trust, and relationships. My fear of rejection and inferiority has destroyed a lot of relationship in the past. My fear of spending money or being broke causes me to hoard. I don’t often give when there are great opportunities and I am often more worried about how much something costs than the relationships that are involved. The negativity breeds more negativity.

Do any of these connect with you? I know I live in fear. None of mine are overt fears like spiders and heights, but they are more subtle and psychological in nature.

Here are four steps to overcoming fear :

  1. Admitting that you don’t want to live in fear.
  2. Identifying your fears. This article was designed to help in this regard.
  3. The next step is arming yourself with knowledge. If you are afraid of spiders, read a book on spiders so that you know all about them. Or spend time with those that don’t struggle in your area of fear. More than likely it will start to erode the irrationality and give you more power.
  4. The final step is action and Jeff covers this nicely in his article Cure Your Fear And Get The Most Out Of Life.

It is time to stop living in fear, I know I am ready. Are you?

This article is a guest post by The Happy Rock who runs TheHappyRock.com a personal finance and personal development site with the motto Change Yourself, Change Your Wealth.

Photo by Noël Zia Lee

How One Man Learned to Love Yoga

1600601f fd6c 4e2e 94e7 48388f1ec113 How One Man Learned to Love YogaThis is a guest post by Andrew Blanco from babled.

When she first asked me to come to a yoga class with her, I couldn’t help but tell my girl she was nuts. After all, I’m a guy, and guys don’t do yoga. Girls do yoga.

Upon hearing this lame excuse, my girl promptly put me in my place with a simple bet: “If yoga is only meant for girls then I dare you to attend a full two hour class without breaking a sweat.”

Let the Games Begin

My first mistake was to assume that yoga was nothing more than glorified stretching.

This assumption was shattered when I walked into the classroom only to find the yoga instructor balancing her entire body on just her head and forearms. I stood there for a moment staring and wondering to myself how this move was performed; it seemed to require more strength than the instructor was capable of putting forth.

Before I had the opportunity to ask my instructor how this move was performed, she ran to the back of class, turned down the lights, turned up the sitar music, ran back to the front of class, laid down her yoga mat, sat on her yoga mat with crossed legs, and softly began to chant OM.

After chanting OM three times, the instructor led the class through a ten minute long deep-breathing exercise. It was towards the end of this seemingly simple and relaxing routine that I first broke a sweat. This was clearly not a good sign of things to come.

After finishing the breathing exercises, the instructor informed the class that the main workout would consist of over an hour of flowing yoga poses. This progressive movement from one pose to another pose is known as Vinyasa. Vinyasa is hard. So hard in fact that I discovered muscles I never knew I had.

About a half-hour into the alternating bending and twisting poses that are Vinyasa, I began to regret my decision to come to class. Not since my days running miles for the high school cross country team had I found myself so aerobically challenged.

Humbled

It’s been three years since my first experience with yoga and I can honestly say I still remain fascinated by how great of a workout you can get within the confines of a six-foot long yoga mat.

In addition to providing an amazing cardio routine, the alternating stretching positions emphasized by yoga greatly improve your flexibility. It is this improved flexibility that makes yoga a perfect complement to strength routines, such as weight lifting, that tighten your muscles.

As you delve deeper into the multitude of poses that yoga offers, you will eventually come to a point where you feel you know how to counteract any and every muscle tightness you have, no matter the location.

When you reach that point you will know that a body at peace is a mind at peace, and you will most definitely thank whoever convinced you to try yoga for the first time.

Andrew writes at babled. Babeling is the art of participating in intelligent discourse, self-serving humor, ironic assumption, and biased beliefs.

Photo by nickolette22

Why SMART Goals Don’t Work and How to Fix Them

This is a guest post by Maria Gajewski from Never the Same River Twice

ac69c1f8 7b5f 4159 95b0 f20c98d20a87 Why SMART Goals Dont Work and How to Fix Them“Where will you be in 5 years?” I’ve always hated this interview question. The truth is none of us has a clue where we’ll be in 5 years. We may be in Phoenix, Antarctica, or Bali. We may be healthy or sick, single or married. Yet, so many classic self improvement books instruct us to create 5 year plans and to set SMART goals to reach them.

In this post I’m going to show you why traditional long range planning doesn’t work for most people, and how you can still set goals and make plans that will actually help you reach them.

SMART Goals Don’t Work

All the traditional advice about self improvement and goal setting teaches that we should set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound (SMART) if you want to succeed. This works great for short-term projects like painting your house or writing a report at work. However, over the long term plans like these get extremely complex. If you stick to the SMART framework, you’re almost destined to fail.

When you think about a large goal like going to graduate school and completing an MBA you realize that there are many possible ways to go about it and there are many things that can change along the way. Let’s say that you set a goal that you want to complete your MBA through an online university in 3 years or less. That’s a fairly well formed SMART goal.

What happens if you change your mind and decide to go to a traditional school? What if you get sick and have to drop out for a semester? Under a traditional SMART framework you’ve failed. When you select a rigid goal and make plans based on it you don’t have any room to adjust when life throws you a curve ball.

Pick a Theme and Make a MicroPlan

So what is a good alternative to setting SMART goals? Instead of committing to a specific action plan over the long term, choose a theme that describes what you want to create or accomplish. I call this choosing a Compass Direction in contrast to plotting a specific route on a map. Both methods will get you to the same place eventually, but following a general direction gives you more flexibility to explore along the way.

Instead of setting the goal of completing an MBA, I might select the theme Improve My Career. This gives me a lot of flexibility to seek out more training, talk to mentors, volunteer for challenging projects at work, and also pursue an MBA if I choose.

How do you translate a vague theme into an action plan? Here’s a simple 5 step process:

  1. Make a list of possible actions you can take to advance your progress. Be practical, but also think big. On this list, “Get an MBA” counts the same as “Read the latest business book.”
  2. Select a manageable number of actions from that list to get through in one week. Go do them. This may mean you focus on one big action, or whiz through many small ones.
  3. At the end of the week review your progress and reflect on any unexpected things that got in your way. In the example, I would ask myself if my career has improved over last week.
  4. Create another week’s plan incorporating your possibilities list and your reflections.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until your theme doesn’t interest you anymore.

The key to this system is the constant feedback you are getting and the adjustments that you’re making along the way. By taking this approach, you won’t spend months or years working on actions that don’t make sense anymore or pursuing a goal that you no longer care about. You can also deal with all of the changes that are bound to come your way without feeling like you’ve failed to achieve your goal.

How Do You Feel About SMART Goals?

I know my views on SMART goals are controversial. Have you been successful using them in your personal or professional life? Have you used a more flexible system like the one I suggest? Share your stories and tips for success in the comments.


Maria Gajewski writes more about why SMART goals suck and how to Travel By Your Inner Compass at Never the Same River Twice. Visit the site to get her free Ebook Changes That Stick: How to Make Lasting Changes.

Photo by philentropist