Sunday, August 29, 2010

Negotiation Skills

by Paul William
5 steps to negotiating a better and smarter deal

Negotiation skills are a powerful asset in life. Understanding how to negotiate will help you get raises and promotions, get a better deal, and get out of paying stupid fees. These five steps will help you learn how to negotiate better and smarter.

1. Prepare

Before you begin negotiating (meeting with your boss or calling a company), take time to prepare for the negotiation. Think about what you want to accomplish and make it a concrete goal. "I want a 10% raise" is better than "I want more money."

Then, take some time to look at it from the other person's point of view. Why should they be willing to give you what you want? In the case of getting a raise, have you proven yourself to be a valuable asset to the company? If you're dealing with a business you buy from, have you been a customer for a long time or is it difficult to get new customers?

The key is to list your accomplishments and reasons why you should get what you want. If you've saved your company money or taken on new responsibilities, write down exactly what you have done. Good examples would be "saved the company $20,000 a
year by reducing waste in..." or "supervising ten more employees than last year." Be ready to justify your request with reasons that will appeal to the other person.

If you've been hit with a bogus fee, review your situation and be ready to explain what happened and why you don't think you should be charged. If you were misinformed by an employee of the company, make that clear when you call. This is also why
it's smart to keep a record of when and to whom you speak when you call a company. You can easily reference the conversation and the person if a problem arises in the future.

2. Choose the Right Time

Timing can greatly help your chances of negotiating successfully. If you're asking for a raise, try to do it right after you finished a major accomplishment or as you take on new responsibilities. Your boss will have a difficult time overlooking the current circumstances, making it easier to give you a raise.

Trying to get a better deal on your cell phone? Wait until your contract is just about to expire. (This works for other bills, too.) Businesses often spend quite a bit of money to get customers, so they'll often do what they can to keep you.
Negotiating when you'll have the option to cancel gives you more power.

3. Be Firm and Confident but Polite

Even if you are nervous or unsure, act confident and be firm as you negotiate. Weakness (real or perceived) puts the negotiating power back in the other person's hands, so avoid it at all costs. This simply means you should not act timid
when making your request. If you know you deserve a raise, act like it!

However, this doesn't mean you should be rude. Nobody likes a jerk. If you become hostile or impolite, people may refuse your request simply because they don't like you. Be pleasant, kind, and patient and you will be rewarded.

Another strategy is to use praise to your advantage. When negotiating a raise, show that you enjoy working there and are aligned with the company's interest. If you're trying to get a good deal with a company, comment on how you've enjoyed using
their product in the past. Let people know you appreciate their time and help and they'll be happy to help you again.

4. Be Ready to Respond

You should be ready to respond to any number of reactions you get. If the answer is yes, then express your thanks. If the person needs to get someone else's approval, let them know you appreciate their support. If the answer is no, things get a
little trickier.

If you're trying to lower your bills or get rid of bogus fees, don't give up at the first "no." Restate one of your reasons for why you should get what you're asking and follow that up with a leading question. Here's an example: "Well, I've been a
customer for 3 years and I'd hate to have to switch to [competitor]. What can you do to help me lower my bill (or get this fee waived)?" Do not follow up with a question that can be easily answered with a "yes" or "no." Push for a "what else" or "how" type question rather than simply saying "Are you sure?" or "OK."

Dealing with your employer is a bit different because you don't want to be so pushy you lose your job. If you think your boss is being unreasonable in denying your raise (i.e., you actually do deserve it), don't be afraid to ask for more details and insist on your accomplishments once again. Be polite but firm. "After saving the company $25,000/year and increasing efficiency by 15%, a 10% raise is a reasonable
award. In addition, comparable positions pay 20% more than my current salary so it is still good for the company."

If your boss still won't (or can't) budge, offer some alternatives that might not cost more money but are still beneficial to you. Increased vacation time, flexible hours, or the option to telecommute one day a week are a few examples. If these don't go over well, ask for concrete goals you can achieve to earn a raise and get an appointment to renegotiate in a few months.

5. Be Ready to Walk Away

Finally, you must be prepared to walk away if necessary. If a company won't offer you a discount, let them know you can get a better deal elsewhere (be specific) and thank them for their time. That's often enough to get what you ask for right away
(but you shouldn't abuse it).

If you are significantly underpaid, work very hard, and have not been able to get a raise, be ready to leave your employer and go elsewhere. I wouldn't use this as a negotiation tactic though. Even if your current employer offers to increase your
salary, they'll know you aren't loyal to the company and they may look to replace you. Your best bet is to start looking for a new job without letting your current boss know. Turn in your resignation after you have a firm offer from a new employer
and move on.

These Tips Do Work!

If you think these tips don't work, I'm proof that they do. Using these strategies, I've gotten 10% raises, lowered several of my bills, and had bogus fees waived several times. Again, preparation and confidence are key. You must know why you deserve to get what you're asking for and be willing to push for it if necessary. Many times, simply asking will get what you want because so many people fail to take that step.

This article has been reprinted with permission from Provident Planning . You can find the original article at Negotiation Skills . Paul Williams lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and has a passion for teaching people about personal finance, especially from a Christian perspective. is dedicated to pursuing that passion.

Note from Lucy: This best tips to negotiation is to go prepared..... Know the facts... Last time TF and I bought a car we went to and found out how much the invoice price was for the car that I wanted to buy... I had some leverage by just knowing the facts... We ended up saving about $5,000. dollars on the deal..... Have a great week everyone!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More ideas from Dollar Stretcher

Powerful Plant Additives

A long time ago, I remember my father emptying his coffee grounds into a planter right next to our back door. He mixed them into the dirt. We had the largest papayas in the neighborhood as well as the fattest earth worms. Everything we planted in the planter grew fantastically large and fast.

Acquiring that much coffee grounds takes time unless you drink a lot of coffee. I found out our local Starbucks has started a "go green" program where they will give away their coffee grounds if you ask. I have now received about 20 pounds of grounds. You can also try your local bakery for egg shells. We leave a empty container with a lid and pick it up about once a week. They add nutrients to the soil, and best of all, they are free. Ken T. in Kailua, HI

Old Purses

Recycle those old purses for disadvantaged, homeless women. Many times, homeless women will go to churches or community centers, seeking help in some small way. Most of the time, churches or other organizations don't have anything to give them. Or don't just hand out cash even if it just a dollar for bus fare.

Many of us have old purses in our closet that we throw away or give to a charity. These could be put to good use by being filled with items a homeless woman might need and not have like pens and notepaper, small bars of soap or shampoo, and lotion. A clean plastic cup put in a small baggie may be appreciated. How many times might a homeless lady desire a drink of water and not have a cup? Give new toothbrushes and small tubes of toothpaste or a pair clean socks that you no longer wear.

We have many of these items just sitting around the house in surplus. Even a small snack like a granola bar or pudding cup could be added. Once the purses are filled, they could be taken to a church or food bank where homeless ladies come or even handed out in areas where homeless women are located. Sometimes a pack of eight toothbrushes or other small bulk items can be bought at a dollar store and divided among the individual purses with one in each purse. It may not seem like much to us, but it will make a big difference to someone who has very little. A.

Little Luxuries: The Theater

I belong to a theater group that performs an annual comedy show for the benefit of a local church. I was checking my local newspaper for fun and interesting things to do and found an invitation to join. It takes very little of my time, and I enjoy being around other people who like comedy as much as I do. I consider this a luxury because it is fun, entertaining, non-fattening and free. It's something I do just for me. We raise money for charity and have a ball doing it! Local newspapers are an excellent source for free entertainment opportunities.
D. T.

editor's note: If you have a method for making you or your family feel good without spending money, please send it to

Just Add Water

It works! I have tried this, and not only does it save money, but it also looks good and is fun for all. I will never run out of chives for my potatoes or salads again. I took a bunch of green onions and put them in some water. I change the water every few days and the onions continue to sprout brand new green stems for cooking and cold dishes. It looks great on the counter, and I have not run out since I started my own. Dawn in Westlake Village, CA

Handy Burger Patties

To make quick and uniform hamburger or sausage patties, I use two piece jar lids. I use regular size for smaller patties and wide mouth for larger ones. Just dampen both pieces and fill with ground meat, turn over, and push meat out with the insert.
Virginia M. in Clarion, PA

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Shopping on the Curb

By Katy Dotson
Turn your neighbor's trash into a treasure. Katy Dotson shops the curb with her husband in North Louisiana.

Few thrills top the feeling of eyeing a cute little table in your home and knowing it only cost you the price of a can of spray paint. Add to that the righteous feeling of keeping one more piece of trash out of a landfill, and you've got the
triumph of a curbside find. It may sound, well, trashy, but nothing is more economical or environmentally friendly than taking a pre-trash-day drive through your neighborhood.

My first curbside find remains my favorite. On the way to the grocery store, I spied a rusty, gold, three-shelf baker's wrack sitting on the curb. I drove past it, but turned around a few minutes later and mustered up the courage to put it into my trunk. It didn't fit. A bit disappointed, I carried it back to the curb. When I turned to get into my car, an elderly man hurried out of the house.

"It doesn't fit in my trunk," I explained. He said that he was eager to see it leave the curb and offered to help. Together we managed to angle it into the back of my car. One can of primer and a can of copper-colored spray paint later, my patio was graced by what looked like a brand-new plant stand. My mom, an expert at trash-pile treasures who claims to be "green" before "green" was cool, was clearly impressed by my find, and I was on my way to discovering a new, affordable world of home decor. And, I'd met a new neighbor.

Shopping the curb can be daunting, but the following guidelines will help you turn one neighbor's trash into your very own treasure.

1. Use your imagination. An old carport column may look dirty or useless, but with a quick hose-down, it could be your next outdoor lantern post. Brainstorm possible alternate uses for the item, and remember that a coat of spray paint can work

2. Set your standards. Upholstered fabrics can be difficult to clean and often contain mystery stains and smells. Because of this, I prefer not to pick up anything with fabric on it. Decide which standards you are comfortable with and stick to

3. Stay home after a rain. Unless you know the water damage is repairable, picking up items after a rain is chancy (and can track muddy water into your car!).

4. Don't keep it if you don't want it. This is important to remember in order to avoid filling your garage with the town's garbage. If you're not going to clean it, paint it, move it or use it, then toss it. Picking up trash is only shabby chic if
you turn it into something cute or practical for your home. Otherwise, it's just shabby. Set a deadline, and if it's still sitting in your garage on that day, put it back where it came from, which is the curb.

5. Don't be afraid to brag. In these frugal times, not only is thriftiness a virtue, but it's also trendy. Feel free to tell guests that footstool is a re-purposed wooden crate from the curb. Who knows? Your success may encourage them to try their
hand at a curbside craft. And just think, we're helping the
environment, too, one rusty plant stand at a time.

Note from Lucy: I have found some really good treasure on the curb... My sister is an expert at it and somehow makes her treasures look brand new... What kinds of things have you found on the curb?

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

On July 27, 2010, in Self-Sufficiency, Skills, by Country Survival

Making your own home made laundry detergent is one of a way that you can save cost especially saving a lot by not sending your laundry to the laundry shop or buying expensive laundry detergent.

It is really a personal preference, and some might think its just really a big hassle to make it yourself. This is a laundry detergent that does not have the harsh chemicals, dies, and perfumes (like the commercial products) that is is really sensitive for some people.

What you need:

1. 1 bar of soap (Fels Naptha, Zote, Ivory)
2. 1 box of Arm and Hammer Washing Soda (available in the laundry area
3. 1 box of 20 Mule Team Borax
4. A five gallon bucket that has lid on it
5. Three gallons of tap water
6. A big scoop or spoon to stir the ingredients
7. A measuring cup
8. A knife or grater

homemade laundry detergents Homemade Laundry Detergent

The Borax cleans, disinfects and softens the water. Arm & Hammer Washing Soda works on grease and neutralizes odors. The Fels Naptha Soap is a heavy duty laundry soap bar & stain remover.

Do not buy Arm & Hammer Baking Soda in place of Washing soda. They are two different products that are not interchangeable and results will vary if substituting one for the other. Also, grate the soap first this is so it dissolves better in the wash. The finer it is, the quicker it dissolves. Keep in mind this is the most time consuming part of the whole thing after that its a breeze.

Homemade detergents produce low suds; you will not see many suds in the wash. No worries, this is normal and your clothes will still come out clean. You only need 2 Tablespoons of laundry soap per load. This roughly comes out to about 1/8 cup.


1. First of all you need to boil about four cups of tap water using a pan on your stove until it is almost boiling.
2. You can start shaving the bar of soap into strips by using a knife or grater and put it directly into the pan of boiling water.
3. After you have shave or grate the whole bar of soap, you need to stir the hot water until it is dissolved and it become highly soapy water.
4. Then, you need to put three gallons of hot water into the five gallon bucket. Mix it with the hot soapy water and stir it for a little while before adding a cup of washing soda.
5. Stir it up to a minute or two, before adding a half cup of Borax. Then, stir it again for a few minutes and let the ingredients mix together overnight.
6. The next morning you will be having a bucket of gelatinous slime where by using only 1/8 cup is all it takes to do a batch of your laundry.
7. If you want a scent other than the soap smell, you can add an ounce of essential oils.
8. Please bear in mind that this mentioned method might not be suitable for most front loading washers, while the Super Washing Soda is also not recommended for usage on wool or silk.

Compared to liquid Tide, the cost of homemade soap is about 1/16th of the cost of liquid Tide.

Note from Lucy: I found this recipe for homemade laundry soap and knew it was for me... I have been cutting down on expenses because of the economy... I am using my own homemade fabric softener and now I have found a great homemade laundry detergent.... It is so much more cost effective and it does a great job...You might just want to give it a try... Have a great weak everyone...