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Lawyerly Skills Can Pay Off: 5 Things You Can Negotiate

By Mark Wilson, Esq. | Last updated on

Americans don't really negotiate over things as much as people do in other countries. We're accustomed to just paying the sticker price and moving on with our lives. But there are a plethora of things you can acquire for a cheaper price by putting your fancy lawyerly negotiatin' skills to work.

Here are five examples:

1. A House.

Everyone probably already knows this, but the sticker price on that house you want? Most likely not what you're going to pay. In addition to the price, you can also negotiate on in-kind things, like repairs, inspections, and closing costs. Be warned, though, that many parts of the country, like our own beautiful San Francisco Bay Area, are sellers' markets and if you want to pay less than the sticker price, there's a whole line of people willing to pay even more than the sticker price.

2. A Car.

To someone not seasoned in negotiating, buying a car can be a traumatizing experience, between the complex -- and intentionally confusing -- calculations for lease payments and multiple levels of managers, supervisors, and salesmen. But don't be afraid to negotiate. Pro tip: Auto dealers love financing because they know you'll pay more in interest if you get a loan from them, so they'll give you a lower price. If you can afford to pay cash, perhaps agree to the financing anyway and then pay it all off in the first month (assuming there's no prepayment penalty).

3. Your Cable Bill.

There's no surer way to continue getting the "promotional" rate than by calling (and you must call, don't email or tweet at) your friendly local cable company and threatening to move to a competitor. As we know by now, cable companies' retention departments have tentacles everywhere -- even in tech support -- meaning they want to keep you as a customer at any cost, even if it's to give you the introductory rate for six more months. (And just keep calling every six months.)

4. Jewelry.

I was surprised to discover that you can negotiate over the price of jewelry. Over course, we're talking about "mom and pop" jewelry stores, not large chains (I'm looking at you, Zales). Small, independent stores are actually interested in your satisfaction and repeat business and are more likely than chains to accommodate your requests.

5. Your Tax Bill.

The IRS of today is happier and cheerier than it used to be. To that end, if you'd have difficulty paying a tax bill or penalty, you can ask the IRS for an offer in compromise (OIC) -- essentially, a settlement. The IRS likes OICs better than the alternative, which are payment plans: "They don't like extended payment plans because people default on them," tax consultant Patty Burquest told Quartz.

More things than you think are open to negotiation. Often, it's a matter of coming into human contact with someone, either in person or over the phone. The Internet has done great things, but even as it's brought us closer together, it's killed the art of negotiating.

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