‘Is that the best you can do?’

Money-Savin’ Mama has been reading up on saving and building wealth. I checked out a book from the library last week, “Five Lessons a Millionaire Taught Me for Women” by Richard Paul Evans.

It was a quick read. I finished it over the weekend. As I read Evans’ anecdotes, something seemed familiar about them. I finally figured it out. A few years back, my husband read Evans’ book — the original “Five Lessons” book, not the edition geared to women — and had read some of these same stories aloud to me.

I was glad to have the refresher, though. While much of Evans’ advice is standard in the personal finance world (know what you earn and what you spend, pay yourself first, delayed gratification, giving back), there was one tactic he recommends that I had forgotten.

“Is that the best you can do?”

Evans stresses how important it is to “win in the margins” — basically you need to earn more or spend less to hasten your wealth building. Smart wealth-builders do both, he writes. The book offers ideas for augmenting income and encourages responsible, rational spending.

Among these ideas, Evans suggests trying to pay as little as possible, especially on big-ticket items, simply by asking “Is that the best you can do?” He calls these “the Seven Golden Words.” The book has several stories of people who’ve saved hundreds and thousands of dollars by using that phrase — on a bedroom set, on patent leather pumps, on medical bills.

That last one got me thinking. I gave birth to a baby boy in August, and our hospital and clinic bills have added up to a lot more than we were expecting. (I was on my own insurance policy and Owen was on my husband’s, meaning we had to meet two deductibles.) We’d used up the last of our flex dollars — pre-tax money you can set aside for medical expenses – paying for mine and Owen’s hospital stays. Then we got what we *hope* is the last clinic bill, for about $300.

Today, I called the billing department, explained our situation, and then asked, “Is there anything you can do to lower the bill?” The gal on the other end said, without hesitation, that they could give us a 5 percent discount for paying the bill in full. I said that was something, and paid the bill. I was happy to accept the $15 in savings.

I admit I didn’t use Evans’ exact phrasing, nor did I challenge to see if that really was their “best” offer. Maybe I could have done better.

But I could have done worse.

I’d call that a lesson learned.

Have you tried this savings tactic?  When and how did it work?

3 thoughts on “‘Is that the best you can do?’

  1. I did this when we were buying a crib for our son. The crib we liked was a display model and the only one in the store. I asked if we could buy it. While the clerk asked the manager on duty, I looked at the crib closely. Of course there was a scratch and a ding on the back of the crib. When the clerk came back & stated that they could sell it I asked to talk with the manager. When the manager named a price I asked the golden question, “Is that the best you can do?” Then I pointed out that there was a scratch and a ding, that they would have to take a big discount due to the condition of the crib. At this point my husband left, saying you bargain for everything….. Of course you should bargain for or barter for everything! I talked the manager down to $59.00 for the crib! The original price was $119.99. When my son was too old for the crib, we put it away for another child. A couple years later my husband sold it to one of his customers for $49.00. She was very happy to get it. I had fixed the scratch and filled in the ding. And I still as the question “Is that the best you can do?” I enjoy bargaining for things or bartering.

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