How to Negotiate Dental Costs (2023 update)

Negotiate Dental Work

Let me be blunt about negotiating dental costs.  I’m no master negotiator. Of course, the title of this essay isn’t “Negotiation Tips for Masters”!

Over the last few years though, I have slowly picked up a few tips and tricks that I try to use from time to time to save money.  Most of these techniques are best utilized to negotiate products or services.  However, they can easily be adapted and used to negotiate salaries, job opportunities, or even help resolve an everyday argument.  While I had my Real Estate business, they often came in handy when negotiating everything from short sales to lease-options and from tenant complaints to refinances.

This isn’t a definitive guide, rather an invitation to open a discussion. My ultimate hope is that a couple of the tips demonstrate how everyday negotiating doesn’t have to be a sleazy, awkward process.  We all negotiate everyday whether we like it or not.  Up until recent years, I simply chose to ignore that fact, which has cost me more money than I want to think about.

As part of the discussion, please feel welcome to add your own tips, suggestions, and criticisms!  I look forward to hearing your responses.

How to morph from “scared” into “comfortable” when negotiating

Most people who are comfortable negotiating will tell you that the hardest part of the transition was overcoming the unjustified fear we attach to the negotiating process.  Obviously, very few people intentionally strive to get into awkward social situations.  But the truth is there’s no rule that everyday negotiating has to be awkward.  More times than not this fear is self-perpetuating.

Here are a couple truisms that I adopted that quickly and radically shifted my view of the negotiating process:

The true value of an item is what someone is willing to pay for it.

If you want to quickly realize how true this really is, get into Real Estate.  Stop looking at price tags, service charges, and listing prices as set in stone!  These numbers are simply the high-end starting point.  People give discounts all the time for all sorts of creative reasons.  There are very few places and very few situations where you can’t negotiate.  Not the other way around.

Realize that you have the RIGHT to negotiate.  Embrace this.

Seriously.  Chances are you’ve worked very hard for your money.  It’s your RIGHT to ask for a better price, more benefits, a free warranty, or a 20% first-time-customer discount.  Your business is extremely valuable!  And here’s another little secret:  most vendors want you to negotiate.  They’d love to give a quick 10-20% discount if it means retaining you as a customer.  Most pay far more than that on average to get a new customer.  Show them your value and exercise your right to negotiate!

Once I adapted these two truisms into my daily life, my fear of negotiating all but dissipated.  I have to admit, it feels empowering to comfortably ask and receive a discount on an item that I would have normally paid full price for anyway.  Ensuring that we don’t overpay for no reason (a.k.a. consistently pay advertised price) has become an integral part of Courtney and I’s financial plan.

The Story:  How I saved $150 with a few simple questions!

I feel like it’s important to be open and honest about both successes and failures.  Therefore, I’ve decided to share this story even though parts of it are embarrassing!

A couple weeks ago, as we continued to prepare ourselves for our move overseas we realized that we would soon lose our decent health and dental coverage.  I knew I needed to get in to see the dentist before we left.  To be honest, I was pretty scared of what the results would be.  Even since leaving home for college, I’ve neglected my dental hygiene.  Sure, I brushed my teeth regularly, but nowhere close to two times per day.  I’ve realized that what I call “brushing” really wasn’t doing much at all.  I wasn’t using the proper technique and certainly wasn’t being as thorough as I needed to.  And let’s not even talk about flossing.  To be honest, I just didn’t view it as necessary.  It wasn’t part of my routine, and I was just too lazy to realize the damage I was doing.

Big mistake! I sat down for a basic examination of what inevitable work I would need only 3 days before we were to leave for Australia.  I had backed myself into a big corner.  Quickly, I realized the gravity of the situation as the dentist reviewed the x-rays and photos they had taken.  I had the early stages of gum disease, along with a couple minor cavities.  Gum disease, even in the early stages, at age 25 is nothing you really wanted to write home about.  However, the good news is that it was very treatable and just the slap in the face I needed to re-commit to proper dental hygiene.

I knew even more bad news was around the corner, though! We had basic dental coverage which only paid for 80% of all work.  In addition, I knew that some other procedures where only covered at 50%  (or not at all) depending on whether they were classified as “cosmetic”.  Around the corner came the billing receptionist:

Billing: Here’s a quote on the services that are recommended.  Look it over and I’ll help explain how it’s set up and answer any questions you have.

The initial quote contained non-insured charges of $587 dollars (and another $1300+ in insured).  We went over the suggested plan item-by-item so she could explain how each charge corresponded to my conversation with the dentist.  The was nothing extra we hadn’t discussed and I quickly realized that I desperately needed to get this work done before it became worse and at least while a portion was covered by insurance.

One thing that did jump out at me was five $38.00 charges for an antibiotic injection that wasn’t covered at all.  I asked the billing receptionist about the charges:

Baker: Hmmm, I see that there are 5 different antibiotic injections here for $38 dollars each that aren’t covered at all.  Do you guys have any other options available for me?  Can we use a different antibiotic that may be more affordable or partially covered by my insurance?

Billing: Ummm, let me check on that for you…

[After a couple minutes, she re-enters with a new printed quote]

Billing: Well, we don’t have any generic options for that antibiotic and your insurance doesn’t have any coverage.  However, due to your situation I was able to get those reduced to $20 each instead of the $38.

That immediately knocked $90 off the bill! Since it only took a couple seconds to inquire about any other options, I was quite pleased with that reduction.  I spent the next couple minutes talking about some of the other procedures, including the difference between grey fillings and white fillings and how they were viewed by insurance.  I made sure I understood each item and that I truly needed everything listed (which I did, unfortunately).

Baker: Thanks for all the help.  One last question…  I’ve talked to the nurses about potentially doing these procedures as early as tomorrow.  What is your discount for paying the entire bill up front and in cash?

Billing: Ummmm…  [3 long seconds]  If you can do it tomorrow, we could probably do 10% off your fees.

Baker: That would make it much easier to show to my wife.  Can you print out a new quote reflecting those changes?

Billing: Sure, I’ll be right back.

Another $50 bucks knocked off with a simple question.  Remembering that I absolutely needed the work done and was working under a time-frame of around 48 hours, I was very pleased.  Despite popular belief, it wasn’t awkward at all.  That brought the total to just over $447, just under 24% off.

Sure 24% off isn’t going to win any Master Negotiator awards, but most people are too afraid even to ask in the first place.  I might have even been able to push for more, but honestly I had received fantastic customer service and they were rearranging things in order to get me in before the trip.  Both parties were happy.

Even just a few years ago, I would have just paid the bill without inquiring much about it.  I would have been timid and would have shied away from negotiating from fear of rejection.  For the average person, just a few tips can make a big difference.  There are a couple that I consistently try to remember when negotiating purchases like the one above.

Basic Dental Cost  Negotiation Tips I Did Well

  • Find common ground early… return often… – This is a simple rapport-building tip, however so much of negotiating is simply having great rapport.  I try to utilize this in all new situation, not only ones I intend to negotiate.  While at the dentist, we had conversations about my family, my upcoming trip, and even my blog all before discussing the bill.  Turns out several of the nurses and the dentist all love travel, too!  Who doesn’t really?
  • Quickly try to isolate the shot-caller – It’s important that you are negotiating with someone who has the power to actually make the needed changes.  It’s o.k. to politely ask to speak to someone whom is able to grant the discount.  Look for mangers, owners, and people who directly handle billing.  In my case, I got lucky that the “billing receptionist” had the ability to provide the discounts on the spot.
  • Establish the “Man Behind The Curtain” early – On the flip side of the above point, if at all possible try to establish early that you will have to discuss all final decisions with another party.  In my case, I told the receptionist very early that “I will, of course, have to run everything by my wife before finalizing anything.” You can use a wife, business partner, or attorney depending on the situation.  Companies have been using this on you for years (think car sales).  Don’t feel bad for providing yourself an out.
  • Hmmm… Wow… Gasp… – This one takes a little more finesse, but has been very effective for me.  The basic idea is to respond with a reaction of “surprise” upon reading or hearing an offer.  I tend to use “hmmm…” to imply that I’m a little uncomfortable and am thinking about the figure.  It’s a little less intense than using “wow” or gasping slightly.  The key is to provide a subtle indication to the other party that you are looking for something different.
  • Inquire about alternative “more affordable” options – This is a great way to be non-confrontational while still “asking” for a discount.  This is one of my favorite ways to start negotiating.  In the example above, this helped me save the first $90 by asking about alternative antibiotic options.  Service providers often have many different methods and/or materials they use to do similar jobs.  You won’t know your options unless you ask!
  • Shut up and ask! – At some point, all the fancy tips in the world won’t net you what simply asking for a discount will.  Although asking about alternative options is a great way to be non-confrontational, being too vague is a great way to make a situation awkward.  At some point in the negotiation you need to just get over it and ask.  I’ve found that 9 times out of 10, I’m amazed at the results!
  • Frame desires/benefits as concessions if possible – This is another tip that requires a little practice and finesse.  The key here is to demonstrate the value you bring in the most positive way.  In my personal example, I implied that I would pay the bill in full up-front and very quickly (tomorrow).  In reality, I only had 48 hours to get the work done before I was going to leave, so I was in a time crunch anyway.  There was nothing dishonest in this approach.  Getting paid quickly and upfront is still of great value to the dentist office.  I just wanted to frame this fact in the most positive light for myself!
  • Imply a discount – This is a simple tip that only requires changing a couple words, but that is very powerful.  Instead of asking “Do you offer a discount for active military personnel?” You replace that with “What is your discount for active military personnel?” Of course, the first can simply be answered with “no… sorry”, while the latter is often much more difficult to quickly dismiss.  I used this example this past Christmas when my brother was home shopping for clothes (he is currently serving in Afghanistan)!
  • Don’t negotiate against yourself.  Just be quiet. – You’ve just asked for a discount.  You framed your value properly and implied a discount.  The quickest way to shoot yourself in the foot is to talk before the other party.  Just keep your mouth shut.  I’ll admit sometime the silence can get a little weird, but opening your mouth will cost you money in the long run.  Once again, I’ve learned this the hard way.  The best negotiators listen far more than they talk.
  • Make people invest time/energy into you before negotiation starts – Vendors spend a lot of money advertising to get you into the store and in front of a product or sales rep.  A person who has shown active interest for the last 20 minutes is worth far more than the person who just called on the phone, who is worth far more than the person browsing on the internet.  The further you are in the process the more value you hold.  In my example, I was sitting in the chair after having around an hour of x-rays, photos, and discussions under my belt.  I desperately needed there services and was willing to execute quickly.  Towards the end I was very valuable to them.
  • Offer to pay up front and in cash – Often times, “paying up front” will be your biggest bargaining chip.  This is especially true for service-based vendors.  One of the worst parts of a service-based business is chasing defaulted accounts and managing payment plans (again I know from experience).   In my experience, the smaller the business the more valuable paying up front will be.  Don’t overlook the value of paying cash, though.  Vendors pay credit/debit card fees to throw their charges on your card.  Some of those pass that directly onto you, but other eat it as part of their costs.  It might not work every time, but it’s certainly worth offering.
  • Negotiate individual before group discounts – This is another “bread & butter” negotiating technique.  I find it most comfortable to start this process by examining each item in a quote.  For example, as I went down through each item I had the uncovered antibiotics I discussed in length above.  Had I asked for the overall discount first, it would have been much more unlikely to go back and get the antibiotics marked down.  Alternatively, you can negotiate the price of a single item and then discount it even further by asking for a  group discount on multiple purchases.
  • Get everything in writing – When it comes to spending your hard earned money, don’t take people’s word for it.  Whether buying a house or negotiating dental work, ask them to politely provide you with a new quote or evidence of the offer in writing.  In my short time on this planet, I’ve already seen more than my fair share “handshake” or verbal deals go horribly sour.
  • Don’t get emotionally involved.  Always be able to walk-away. – Remember, negotiating shouldn’t be personal.  It’s a business transaction where each party attempts to highlight their value and come to a mutually beneficial compromise.  It’s really that simple, unless you start bringing personal emotions into the process.  Especially with larger purchases (car, house, lease, etc…) it’s easy to get attached to the item.  This is the quickest way to either get taken advantage of or to quickly become offended and angry.  You don’t want either.  Do whatever it takes to remain impartial and level-headed.
  • Don’t let the other party feel abused or scammed. Even if you aren’t abusing or scamming anyone, it’s important that the other party doesn’t feel like they are being mistreated.  The best negotiations create win-win situations, where both parties feel like they gained something.  Even if we set aside the vital concepts of morals and karma, taking advantage of people is just a dumb business move.  Burning bridges and tarnishing your reputation will cost you far more in the long run than the money you saved.

Negotiation Tips I Overlooked At the Dentist Or Did Poorly

  • Decide on your breakpoint – It’s a fantastic idea to settle on your “worst case scenario” before beginning the negotiation process.  This is effectively the highest you’d be willing to pay for a specific item.  This will keep you from overspending due to ineffective negotiating.  Bottom line:  You aren’t paying over or selling for under your break point.  Because of the nature of the services I needed were so unknown, I didn’t enter into my negotiations with a break point of any kind.  This might have cost me money.
  • Start with a extremely low shocker offer… – This is another technique that requires both rapport and finesse.  In my Real Estate ventures, I certainly saw this both backfire miserably and succeed wonderfully.  Most of the time I would only really suggest this to someone in a very strong opening position.  It’s strength lies in its ability to shatter unfounded expectations from the very start.  Depending on the situation this can be a great way to kick things off.  In my situation, I didn’t think it was appropriate to “offer low”, although once again properly using the technique could have saved me even more.
  • “I’d love to work with you, but unfortunately…” – Before stating you needs, it can help to reiterate that you are ready and willing to continue the relationship.  This subtle, yet effective statement reinforces that you are serious about the purchase or sale, but that you still have crucial needs that are unmet.  It’s a polite way to refocus the negotiation once it has hit a speed bump or simply stalled.
  • “Unfortunately, I’m absolutely not a buyer at that price” – Another phrase I have used from time to time to jump-start a stalled negotiation.  This one is more direct, but still not rude.  I usually will utilize this type of saying when the discussion has become cloudy or when the other party is insisting on a specific term that I’m unable to overcome.
  • Upfront Justification – I often use this tip on the selling end.  “Considering the amount of work that I’ve put into this…”  Providing justification before a statement can often times help the other party see value they might not have realized.  Savvy buyers and sellers both know that the amount of time/energy/love you’ve invested has nothing to do with the actual worth of the item.  Still it’s a great technique to help demonstrate why you’ve attached value to an item or service.
  • The “what-would-you-do-in-my-shoes” question – My favorite way to initiate this question is to say, “Here’s the main issue… [restate problem plainly]…  what would you do in my shoes?” Asking questions like this is an effective way to generate all sorts of creative ideas that you would never even thought to ask.  I often ask this to customer service representatives after being told “no”.
  • If you are completely uninsured, make it known – Doctors and dentists will negotiate even further the more you are uninsured.  I’m assuming that the main reason my dentist office discounted my antibiotic was that I had no coverage for that specific item.  I’ve heard stories of medical professionals offering discounts of 50-75% for individuals whom have absolutely no coverage and who negotiate the services up front.
  • Obtain a basic understanding of competition. A little research into rental rates, car values, second opinions, and even competitor’s sales can go a long way in ensure you are getting a great deal.  The effectiveness of this technique can be magnified if you can bring proof.  The more information you have the better position you start the the negotiation in.  You can help prevent yourself and others from being victim of scams and schemes.

3 Common Phrases You Should AVOID At All Costs

  1. “I’m going to be honest with you” – I used to use this one all the time before realizing that it was having the negative effect that I desired.  I wanted to show that I was being honest, but didn’t realize I was implying that I had not been being honest all along.  Even just starting with “Honestly, I don’t feel…” has a slightly better implication.  I’ve noticed that my outcomes are much more satisfactory when I eliminate that sort of phrasing altogether, though.
  2. “Take it or leave it” – Ultimatums will rarely get you anywhere.  In fact, they most often will blow up in beginner’s faces.  I use to think I was demonstrating “power” by issuing a statement like this.  What I came to realize is that I rarely ended up with anything more than a soured relationship.  There are much more effective techniques at your disposal.
  3. “What’s the lowest price you’ll take?” – When I was selling my car, I talked to roughly 20-25 people.  At least 90% of them asked this question (usually before demonstrating any value to me).  I can tell you from recent experience that it automatically made me lose respect for the person as soon as it left their lips.  Do not start here.  Start by demonstrating your value and fully identifying the other parties needs.  I’ve listed numerous tips that are much more effective above.

Bringing It All Together!

This has turned into a rather long essay, however I wanted to reiterate what I believe to be the most essential concepts.

Although I don’t claim to have mastered the fine art of negotiation, I’ve certainly have enable myself to feel comfortable with the process in a short amount of time.  It is my hope that my story and the personal tips I’ve experimented with help shift some of you from the “awkward” phase to “comfortable” phase. If you’ve experienced this shift already, I hope you’ve picked up a few more techniques or at least will help share your own successes with those of us still learning (myself included)!

Be sure to leave your own negotiation tips, tricks, techniques, truisms, and phrases you’ve learned to avoid below!  You’re comments add incredible value for other readers.  Share your story and/or criticisms!

photo by conchur

71 thoughts on “How to Negotiate Dental Costs (2023 update)”

  1. Congrats on getting your price knocked down 24%!

    Having been in sales for a while (doing door-to-door contracting sales… successfully), the man behind the curtain thing can backfire big time, too.

    As soon as you establish that you aren’t the one making the decision, what’s the point negotiating with you? Just like you wouldn’t negotiate with someone who can’t make the decision regarding your negotiation, why would they negotiate with someone who can’t say yes or no?

    Otherwise all of the other tips are good 🙂

    P.S. I think the stumple upon link is missing your article title? Not sure though cause I can’t click @ work 🙂
    .-= MLR´s last blog ..Carnival of Top PF Posts #9 =-.

    1. Glad you made it all the way through!

      I totally agree with your perspective on the ability for “Man Behind The Curtain” to backfire. This one is usually more effective when negotiating discounts on a product or a service with a vendor.

      In your situation, going door-to-door you’d still probably negotiate with an interested party even if you knew they were going to need to discuss it. Ideally, you’d want to set an appointment for later with both parties (effectively both shot-callers) together. However, you may need to negotiate some in order to even get that appointment!

      Great insight, MLR!

      p.s. fixed SU link, thanks

      1. Interestingly enough, I would NOT negotiate if someone used that tactic on me. I would talk to them for a few minutes about their needs and then arrange a later meeting when the “man behind the curtain” could be there, too. Some agreed, some didn’t.

        Did I miss a few sales that I could have gotten otherwise? Probably. But why waste 2 hours selling to someone who can’t make the decision? That 2 hours is better used finding someone who can make the decision and negotiating with them.

        But I also had one of the highest closing rates and booked more work than 90% of my competition. I used my time effectively and efficiently, didn’t want to waste it!

        I can see it as being more effective when negotiating a discount on a product or service, but I still think it takes away part of your authority in the matter. You can always say no if you aren’t happy with the price… no need to disempower yourself!
        .-= MLR´s last blog ..Carnival of Top PF Posts #9 =-.

        1. 2 hours is a little bit of an extreme example. My point was that you might spend 15 minutes presenting your value to an interested party to create a warmer lead and confirm an appointment for another time. When I was going door-to-door my time was much more effectively spent warming up a lead, than walking to the next door. Part of the warming up process may include some negotiations. Although, I too would never spend 2 hours.

          I however did not necessarily book more than 90% of my competition. I certainly wasn’t a super star of door-to-door real estate referrals. By the sounds of it you might not be the target audience of the “beginner tips”! 😉

          Your perspective seems very valuable for those just getting comfortable with the process!

          1. Yeah, my sales process would take about 1.5-2 hours per lead. That wasn’t all active participation time, of course. 50% of it was probably me actually walking around and doing the estimate.

            As in most things… it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis 🙂 At 2 hours per lead and an average job size of $6,000 it was worth it for me to go to the next place where I could negotiate with all vested parties.

            That may or not be applicable depending on your situation! Just wanted to throw that out there so that someone doesn’t say “well, my husband..” and then get surprised when the salesperson is actually the one to take a walk.

            BTW, was it periodontal disease? I just went to the dentist and got that taken care of :/
            .-= MLR´s last blog ..Carnival of Top PF Posts #9 =-.

  2. 10% off for paying up front? Wow.

    I got myself in the same situation as you. I had braces, and thus built up a bit of fear/dislike of dentists, and went about 5 years between visits.

    By the time I went back, I had to have a root canal, a couple of crowns, and several categories. The topper, though, was the gum surgery. I had the pleasure of having 3 gum surgeries. They take a patch of skin from the roof of your mouth and stitch it into your gumline. It is performed under local anesthesia, and it’s about as much fun as it sounds. There’s also a recovery period that involves a soft diet for a while.

    I maxed out my dental plan for several years in a row (sounds like a very similar plan to your). This was when I learned about the awesomeness of paying for medical expenses with pre-tax money.

    Oh, I did get one of the gum surgeries for free. The second surgery wasn’t as successful as they would have liked, so they did the surgery again, at their expense.

    And the subcutaneous hematoma that developed – the one that made me drag the oral surgeon away from his evening gardening work. The one that made the oral surgeon lament the fact that he should have brough a camera because “my partner will never believe that the hematoma was this big!”. Yeah, that was also as much fun as it sounds.

    So, take care of the gums.

    These days, I go the the dentist 3 times a year, just to make sure nothing gets out of control. And my dentist is a great guy … if he’d been my dentist in high school, I probably wouldn’t have carried the negative dental vibes with me. Ironically, the neighborhood where we live is overrun by dental students (I meant that in a good way) because the local U has a dental college.
    .-= Kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..Open and shut =-.

    1. Kosmo,

      It sounds like we have very similar stories, I just came out a little luckier by the sounds of it! I did have two separate 2-hour sessions, but escaped with only minor injuries ;-).

      Again, this was more luck than anything!

  3. I have a good tip to add.

    Try again. When calling Comcast and other service this is often called rep shopping. You would be surprised at how another person with a different personality and different experience can achieve drastically different results. If it is a car dealership or something like that, don’t be afraid to walk away and then come back at a later time. Often the salesman realizes how the silly they were for letting a buyer leave without buying anything.
    .-= The Happy Rock´s last blog ..Michael Jackson, King of Pop, dies with debts of $400 Million. =-.

    1. Oh My God!

      I can’t believe I left that tidbit out! You nailed it man. I always use that technique when dealing with phone customer service reps. I’ve told my wife many times “Honey, just hang up and call right back!” It works wonders…

      Fantastic addition!

  4. Agree 100% with The Happy Rock. I’ve done this several times when calling various states and the IRS to discuss tax information, it’s amazing how different people can change the situation. The only downside is time spent wading through automated phone systems until you get a “live” person.

  5. Baker’s tips are awesome, most of which I have successfully used for years! If you are shy about asking (like my wife), go ahead & try some of these tips… you will be amazed at the money you can save!

    My wife often jokes that I ALWAYS ask for & most times do indeed receive a discount no matter where I go. Slowly but surely she is adopting my philosophy, which I LOVE. Just the other day she came home all proud of the fact that she had successfully negotiated a discount… I encouraged her, but I think getting the discount was enough to get her hooked!

    If my wife can do it… anybody can do it!
    .-= Matt Jabs´s last blog ..In God We Trust – Not In Money, Fame, and Fortune =-.

  6. My co-worker just this morning shared with me his recent experience on craigslist where he was selling a web-cam. A future college student emailed asking for a discount because she was a poor college student and wanted to talk to her family blah blah sob story. Sam said okay I’ll knock X dollars off. She then replied back saying she couldn’t do it and then proceeded to insult his lack of generosity helping someone in need out. Moral of the story: If you ask for a lower price and then get it, shut up and buy the product.

    Great tips Baker, forwarding to my wife, as she hates the art of negotiation.
    .-= Paul @ FiscalGeek´s last blog ..When DIY has No ROI: Diary of a DIYaholic =-.

  7. Isn’t this actually a story about how preventative maintenance could’ve saved you $587?

    I mean, if you would’ve spent 30 seconds twice a day brushing your teeth, you wouldn’t have needed any of this.

    1. Ella,

      You are exactly right and have picked the topic of an upcoming post next week! 🙂

      However, I wouldn’t be so cheeky to think that 30 seconds twice per day brushing would have solved everything. In fact, it was that sort of attitude that got me into trouble. My biggest problem by far was not flossing, which led to the early stages of gum disease. Proper brushing itself takes more than 30 seconds, let alone flossing once per day.

      So let’s just say that maybe 3-4 minutes per day would have saved me $587 (and made me much healthier). 😉 Still sad that it took 5 years of neglect and a full day of sitting in a chair to make me change my ways! Stick around for the preventative maintenance, small win/big win discussion next week!

        1. I realize you probably mean this in total jest, but your math is shortsighted. When you think long term (as most personal finance bloggers are prone to do), this level of neglect can lead to full on root canals in less than 10 years, and then probably dentures after 15 years when your teeth have more or less rotted out of your mouth. The cost of this level of neglect will only get more expensive over time. Also, how classy is it to be the first 40 year old you know with dentures? Would you have really spent that time (that you didn’t spend brushing) making money? Would you like to do a true cost-benefit analysis over a lifetime?

          Clearly I was exaggerating with the 30 seconds to brush to make a point. However, you can brush while catching up on the morning news on your computer. You can use mouthwash while you take a dump before you go to bed. You can floss while watching the Colbert Report.

          1. Yes, this was completely tongue in cheek. As mentioned above, I’ve had significant dental issues and even go to the dentist 3 times a year instead of the 2 times that a lot of people go. My current dentist also recommended a change to the brushing technique, as apparently the one that I learned when I was a kid was not particularly effective. Ah well, live and learn. My dental health has been much better over the last 5ish years. Still a few minor things here and there, but nothing major.
            .-= Kosmo @ The Casual Observer´s last blog ..Crossover =-.

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  9. Oh! I know one!

    Probably only applies to Yanks, but: for any medical procedures not covered by your insurance, e.g. I had an x-ray and ultrasound done at an “out of network” hospital (oh the horror), and for which you get a giant bill, realize that the provider is sending you the “retail” full-boat price that no insurer on earth (ok, at least in the US) pays. They are accustomed to accepting enormous discounts on this price; see any statement you get from your insurer after the fact, specifically the “billed” vs. “paid” amount, will prove this fact.

    So armed with that knowledge I got a ~$700 bill knocked down to $225 in seconds just by 1) letting the person know that I knew this and 2) asking her to give me the “insurer” price. She came back with the lower figure, and I immediately accepted. I was so surprised that I didn’t think to grind her further, and it probably wouldn’t have helped.

  10. The only tip I can add is to start with a compliment whenever possible. It never hurts to have someone already feeling favorable towards you BEFORE negotiation starts. I have used this most successfully when buying a used car, i.e. “Man you seem to have taken great car of this car… I just hope I can afford to do the same when I find one I CAN afford”. (Saved me 200 on a 1000 dollar car or 20%!!) & “What a nice house, you are blessed to be able to live here…you should see my neighborhood” (Slight shudder here works wonders! LOL)
    That person realized he was in much better financial shape than I was and eventually settled for 750 dollars on a car that was listed in the paper for 1250. (40% savings there.) In both cases though, what I said was totally true. I’m pretty sure an insincere compliment might backfire big time.

  11. Nice thorough collection of tips here! I’ve used some of these for sure, but didn’t know them by their “names” like “Man behind the curtain”?! 🙂 I like to ask whether there are any other options, whether there’s anything else “we” can do to make the cost more manageable, what “adjustment” could be made to retain me as a customer, etc. I’ve had success in reducing my credit card rates this way. Also possible to do with cab fares, but do it up front so as to be more honest – not after they’ve driven you all the way to the other side of the city. Also, there’s lots of room for doing this with hotel costs of all kinds.
    .-= MoneyEnergy´s last blog ..Fière d’être Canadienne/ Proud to Be Canadian – Best Canadian Personal Finance Blogs Edition =-.

  12. Wow, now I’m impressed. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m not very good at negotiating, but hopefully, if I can regularly apply some of these tips, I’ll be much more effective at my negotiations in the future! Thanks for all the great tips!
    .-= Roger´s last blog ..Common Valuation Ratios =-.

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  19. Hey Baker.

    Really liked the way you explained that you have a RIGHT to negotiate. one of those good ‘ol “that’s SOOO true” moments of bing realisation. the kind of epiphany you usually only get from sitting cross legged in a cave for a really long time… refreshing 😉

    the “don’t you have any other options” question works a treat. awwwsome tip.

    another really cool retort, courtesy of the over-quoted yet justifiably so Tim Ferriss, is to just look and sound shocked. and then go quiet until they break the silence. and then ask if that’s their best price. dramatic moment. can feel the ice break and the money chime back into your wallet. glorious.

    well done on the total reduction. 24% is serious.

    i think in the end it comes down to this: whatever you feel, they feel.

    If you feel awkward, they’ll feel awkward. if you feel you’re gonna get a discount, they… haha, jokes. but def makes it more likely. strongest reality wins.

    solid breakdown of techniques too. one that stood out most to me was “don’t get emotionally involved”.

    it’s only a big deal if you make it one.

    great post. and learned a thing or too.


    keep well and in touch
    alex – unleash reality
    .-= alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Off-Centre Ideas About Balance =-.


    Hey Baker.

    Really liked the way you explained that you have a RIGHT to negotiate. one of those good ‘ol “that’s SOOO true” moments of bing realisation. the kind of epiphany you usually only get from sitting cross legged in a cave for a really long time… refreshing 😉

    the “don’t you have any other options” question works a treat. awwwsome tip.

    another really cool retort, courtesy of the over-quoted yet justifiably so Tim Ferriss, is to just look and sound shocked. and then go quiet until they break the silence. and then ask if that’s their best price. dramatic moment. can feel the ice break and the money chime back into your wallet. glorious.

    well done on the total reduction. 24% is serious.

    i think in the end it comes down to this: whatever you feel, they feel.

    If you feel awkward, they’ll feel awkward. if you feel you’re gonna get a discount, they… haha, jokes. but def makes it more likely. strongest reality wins.

    solid breakdown of techniques too. one that stood out most to me was “don’t get emotionally involved”.

    it’s only a big deal if you make it one.

    great post. and learned a thing or too.

    awwwsome. gave it a stumble and tweet.

    keep well and in touch
    alex – unleash reality
    .-= alex – unleash reality´s last blog ..Off-Centre Ideas About Balance =-.

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  25. Awesome and very helpful tips! The art of negotiation is a tricky one that I haven’t quite mastered but have gotten much better at through the years. I too have had some dental issues and managed to get a free apecoectomy after bargaining with my oral surgeon! It can be done people!

    In the past I’ve learned you should never ever demand a discount because you know someone else has gotten one from the company in the past, ex: “Well you only charged *insert name here* a certain amount so why should I pay more?” or “I know you can give me a discount because you gave my friend one.” It’s all about the tone you take when approaching people. When trying to get a discount being forceful almost never works. Be humble and considerate and watch the price tag drop!
    .-= Ashley´s last blog ..The 5 Most Common Credit Problems =-.

  26. I’ll be honest… I’ve been in this situation myself multiple times; too afraid to ask even though it could potentially save myself money. I either felt like a fool or like my opinion wasn’t valid, and so I ended up paying for it (literally!)

    Good to see they knocked off such a large amount though, and it always feels good when you can negotiate on friendly terms as opposed to one party feeling backed into a corner.
    .-= Travis´s last blog ..Keeping Busy =-.

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  29. @ Matt –

    @ Alex – to get around feeling awkward, imagine it as more of a telling a story in a slightly regretful tone (but still very friendly), e.g. “this tailoring was supposed to be ready on Saturday, and here it wasn’t ready until Wednesday, which I’m glad it’s done but I had really wanted to wear this on Monday for my big meeting.” That got me through the awkward. I successfully negotiated a few dollars off, which was fine with me.

    And yes I could save money on hemming my own pants, but I am not good enough to attempt it on dress pants!

    And THANK YOU for showing an inside to how the insurance works, I have to do the same thing next month!

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  31. This is my first post on your site, but I really appreciate your post on discussing or negotiating prices. I know this has been something I have been very bad, but I have done better the longer I am in the military. I have been quite confident to ask for miltary discount and other discount from my services. I will try to imply the other tips in my next price affair. Thanks again.

  32. Check out the book “Say Goodbye to your Dentist” if you want real insight into your teeth and a program that works for stopping both tooth decay and gum disease in its tracks. it is written by a woman in upstate NY who is a dentist and somewhat of an “alternative” dentist.

    Standard dentist practice is not the best for countering gum disease and overlooks a lot of factors that feed into it.

    I know, I’ve been fighting gum disease for 5 years and my dentist, though well-meaning, didn’t tell me half the things that I learned from her book.

    My copy is a prepub edition (I’m in the book business) but it will be available soon to buy.

    Absolutely look it up.

  33. Today was the first day I was commited to negotiations. I was about to cut the price by 13% by just simpily asking and use my walk away option. The opening price was within the ballpark of reasonable, but I knew there was a discount available, so I used the different methods I remembered from here, and finally used my walk away option to both get out of the situation where he had several of his salespersons ganging up on me to convince of the good price, and also to check to make sure the reasonable prices was just that. He bowed and I made out; I do not believe I shorted him, and I am happy about the transaction. Thanks again.

  34. Great article, thanks for taking the time to write that all out. One thing I didn’t see immediately is the concpet of countering offers in small incrememnts. A lot of people find the an easy path of “splitting the difference” and negotiating to the center. I find in my real estate business that If my second offer is just a small increment highher than the first (As opposed to halfway between the two prices) I can effectively get my clients a better price
    .-= Evergreen real estate´s last blog ..How To Price Evergreen Real Estate =-.

  35. It is surprising how intimidated people are when it comes to negotiations. I think we are trained throughout life not to haggle or negotiate; that it’s bad manners.

    I have always broached a lower price, even in jest at times, and found that in most cases you can get a better price.

    Nice article.

  36. Outstanding advice. I’m almost ashamed to say that I never considered negotiating the price down at my Doctor’s office. Since we have insurance, I didn’t think to even ask. Ohhh, I can’t wait to try this tactic. Thanks!

  37. Your article really points out the best practices that every realtor should have and avoiding those “unacceptable” negotiating strategies. I do agree that giving “ultimatum” is a big OFF because if I myself would be offered and given ultimatum, I would directly turn down the offer. That is so unprofessional.

  38. Fantastic tips especially for a realtor.

    In the Dominican Republic everything is negotiable and negotiated. Many North Americans have a really hard time with this and often take offence or get very upset. But it’s just part of the Dominican culture and everyone negotiates and personal feelings are not involved.

  39. Hey, Baker, just found your blog from Karol’s at ridicuously extraordinary. com

    I work in the medical profession and want to follow the poster above. If you are paying for medical services (im in the us)in cash you should recieve a big discount. The provider does’nt need to argue with and wait on an insurance company for payment.

    I would probably ask for the “Medicare rate” or a discount from the medicare rate for paying in cash now. Medicare is regarded as standard industry rates that begin most negotiations (ie private insurance might pay medicare +x%).

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  41. Hey, I’m too shy. I don’t know where to start from.

    I’ve read your tips and reminded me the great book “You can negotiate anything” by Herb Cohen.
    Anyway, after reading all this, I don’t feel confident enough to ask for a discount.

    How could I start to embed this philosophy in me? Which is the easiest question I can throw? Or how can I overcome the fear of rejection?

    I always feel the “it’s not for me” or the “it doesn’t apply here” but I want it to be on my day-to-day arsenal. I think learning this abillities is a must.

    Thank you!

  42. One caveat. It’s important to factor in to your negotiation strategy how much you want to work with the vendor. In choosing a dentist, for example, the long-term cost of getting a bargain may be far greater (in suffering and future fees) than the short-term cost of paying more for someone who is competent, busy and less willing to bargain. When you are buying Toyota, it’s the same car wherever you get it. So price negotiation is everything once you’ve decided what you want. But when you are doing home repairs, for instance, contractors aren’t all the same. I’ve found it’s a good strategy to go with contractors with good references (preferably from people you know who they have worked for), understand their charges and if they are comparable to other, negotiate that the work will be done completely and as you want it, but not the price. It really does you no good to get a $2,400 estimate for laying a tile laundry room floor down to $1800 if the work isn’t done well.

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  44. While I agree with the asking about discount for cash or paying in full up front can be a good thing if done well, most of the time it’s just plain insulting being the recipient of such tactics. I have a day job working for an interior painting company that runs 3 skilled women that doesn’t screw anything up, is fast and clean up after themselves so the customer doesn’t have to. We’re never the lowest bid and we prefer it that way because the customer gets so much extra, considerate stuff. But it really is rather insulting when people try to negotiate price with us. We’re not over-charging and really, you can’t negotiate with the grocery store so why would someone presume to think they can negotiate with us just because we’re a small business. It’s even more insulting when we go for an estimate and find a closet full of designer shoes but they then want to negotiate paint job? Normally I would be backing an article like this but I’d rather not have more people trying to negotiate price with us since it’s already hard to get people to see the value in a good paint job.

  45. @ Margeaux

    “We’re not over-charging and really, you can’t negotiate with the grocery store so why would someone presume to think they can negotiate with us just because we’re a small business. It’s even more insulting when we go for an estimate and find a closet full of designer shoes but they then want to negotiate paint job? ”

    It’s ok for people to negotiate with you. Your counter should be along the lines of “we don’t feel like we can do the quality of work that we do for less money than we’ve quoted you. If money is an issue for you and you’d like to find someone who might do what you want for less then I could suggest x and y.”–and give them names and contact numbers.

    Make it clear that you have quality standards and working standards and are perfectly willing to turn down their job if the money isn’t there to pay for it.

    8 times out of 10 they will go with you when you do this. The other 2x they weren’t going to go with you, anyways.

  46. Or, even better, “we’ve found that we can’t do the quality of work that we like to do for less money than we’ve quoted you. ”

    And “If you think about it and you want to try going with someone else, we’d be happy to provide you with some contractors you could contact.”

  47. Lots of good stuff here. Being able to refer to someone else “behind the curtain ” is a source of referral power – an acknowledged source of bargaining power. Take care though in case someone spots what you are doing. I agree that good negotiators don’t tend to talk too much – the more you say the more you give away! Definitely worth doing some exploring and climate setting at the beginning of the negotiation as you say – this builds good foundations for the haggle later on. As for phrases to avoid, “with respect” normally means “you cretin” and ” I hear what you say” normally means “I havent been listening”. Both those phrases are meant well but often wind up the other side.

  48. That is very impressive. I never thought about trying to get my dental bill down, although my husband did so recently.

    I”m a real estate investor, and one question I’ve asked that has saved me many thousands of dollars over time is, during final stage negotiations, “is that the best you can do?” If the answer is yes, that’s OK. If the answer is a lower price, even better.

  49. I am soon to begin a new round of orthodontia due to degenerating crossbite problems that have slowly gotten worse over the past several years, and were triggered because I did not wear my retainer properly as a child. At 25 years old, it’s time for round 2! Baker, your advice to try negotiating got me 3% off for paying in cash and another 10% by asking for a discount since I’m working with the same orthodontist from my childhood work. That’s a lot of money when you’re talking about braces – thank you for sharing your advice!

  50. In such a tough economic time its great that you are willing to share this post with others. The tips and advice you lend to others here can truly change lives. Good luck to all of you implementing these great tips in these trying times. God bless

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