Monday, December 19, 2011

Financial Advice from a Laydee: Bargaining

TreeYou guys, I am preeetty good at financial stuff. I am also perpetually bursting with financial advice and dying for an outlet. And since 'tis the season for it, I thought I'd start posting some of it.

What does this have to do with the rest of the blog? Plenty! For one, a lot of the financial advice out there is written by doodz. And, not to knock doodz, because they write tons of good stuff, but sometimes it doesn't translate. This is not because of our tiny math-allergic female brains, but because of society.

For example: bargaining. Every dood-written financial blog I've read eventually says something like, "You can get a discount on anything! Just ask for it!" Get Rich Slowly advocates doing this, as does Ramit Sethi. Once I decided to take Sethi's advice and try to negotiate a lower cable rate. I had in hand an advert for a low introductory rate that I did not qualify for, being an existing customer, and a set of suggested tactics from Sethi, including things like asking to speak with customer retention, that would supposedly help convince them to lower my rate. I stayed cool and friendly and I think I'm capable of sounding reasonably professional. And it did not work at all.

It also didn't work when I tried to bargain for a lower price on a used car. I chose to remain carless because the seller would not budge by even the smallest amount on the price. That just offends my principles. Who refuses to bargain on a used car? Incidentally, the only time I successfully negotiated a lower price on a car was when I was co-buying it with a dood. I could give you a couple more examples but let's just say it's a pattern. And it's not just me. Laydeez everywhere run up against walls when they try to buy cars or negotiate raises.

In fact, the only time I can think of that I successfully negotiated for something was with my landlord. When I first moved in, the dining room contained a giant free-standing wardrobe so that they could market it as a two bedroom. It took up an annoying amount of space and they refused to remove it. That is, until it came time to renew. Then, it became more worthwhile to deal with the wardrobe than to find a new tenant, especially one that might not pay on time regularly or keep the place spotless. And so I got my way eventually, not by negotiating but by establishing myself as a valuable tenant. And a couple years later, I got them to agree to shorter leases in order to keep me on. It's the usual drill: I did more work for less reward.

Sorry if this isn't very encouraging, but I think it's useful to know. The realization that I acquire bargaining power by building financial relationships rather than through charm means that when I move someplace new I spend a LOT of time looking for a good apartment, one that I am more likely to stay a while in. And I'm delaying buying a car, and if/when I do get one, I will plan on driving it to death. I may even hire a dood to negotiate the price for me. Perhaps most importantly, it means that when I look for a job, I pay attention to what they say about women. My current boss hires a lot of women and promoted that in my first phone interview with him, and that kind of thing definitely factors into a job search when you know you've got the raise-negotiation-odds stacked against you in general.

I hope this sort of thing is helpful. I'd like to continue writing about finance now and then because I am so tired of all the bullshit you hear regarding laydeez and financial literacy, like that "women also prefer to learn about money in person or in groups with others in their situation, as opposed to curling up with a book" (ref). Could that be because most of those books are written by men? Who are giving naive advice like, "go ahead, ask for a raise!" If the advice doesn't work for women, then women will stop reading and seek advice from their peers. Cuz bitches be rational.

Also! Readers, I'd love to hear about your experiences with negotiation, especially if you got it to work for you, and if you have any thoughts on how that intersects with any aspects of your identity.


  1. I want you to keep writing about finances because finances give me a great deal of anxiety and you make me chill out and laugh. That may or may not be gendered, I have no idea, but keep on keepin' on.

  2. Well, you're in luck, because I've already put together a finance post for next week ... about credit cards. Hold onto your hats, gentlefolk!

  3. When I start negotiating faculty startups I'll give an interview for you.