This guest post from Justin is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes.
Normally, we personal finance aficionados aren't the fighting sort. We'd rather use our spreadsheets and calculators than our fists. However, there's a time and a place for us to get aggressive. Remember, when it comes to your money, no one cares about it as much as you do (one of the core tenets of J.D.'s financial philosophy), and sometimes you have to remind others that's the case.
I'm generally a passive individual. In fact, my wife would say I'm a wimp. But when it comes to my finances, I've come to realize that I need to stand up for myself and make sure I'm getting — and keeping — every dollar owed me.
I learned to fight for my money about four years ago, after reading an article that said you could call your credit card company and ask to have your rate lowered. Really? Just like that? You just have to ask? I tried it, and sure enough, after explaining that I'd been a loyal customer who paid on time, I received a rate cut of 8%. That's when I first fought for my finances — and I've been fighting ever since.
Let me share some more examples.
- Back in December I hired a company to clean my former residence after I moved out. (I know, not a very frugal act, but sometimes you have to trade money for sanity.) They came. They cleaned. I went back to inspect the place, and I saw some shelves that were still a bit dusty. The floors seemed cleaner, but not clean. In the past, I would have shrugged my shoulders and said, “What are you gonna do?” This time I picked up the phone and calmly, politely, and rationally, explained that their services did not meet my expectations. They knocked $40 off my bill.
- This winter I received one of those shocking gas bills that you drop on the floor and run away from. After recovering and studying the bill more closely, I realized that the bill was based on an actual reading. I checked my gas meter against the numbers on the bill, and realized that the two were way off. The gas company had made a mistake. (Shocking, huh?) I called them with my reading, and they adjusted the bill. This resulted in a bill that was $50 lower.
- My wife and I receive our internet service from AT&T. Our experience with them has been…trying. During one of my many calls to their “customer service”, I actually did raise my voice, which I don't recommend. Because I hounded them and let them know I was unhappy with their service, I received a discounted rate that was $15 less/month than the normal rate, and instead of waiting for them to send a $100 visa gift card as part of a promotion, they applied that $100 directly to my account.
- Two years ago I had the roof replaced on my house. It was an insurance claim after wind damage. The roofing company did a fine job, save for one aspect. On the front porch roof, instead of using flashing, they simply nailed up unfinished two by fours. When I called to complain, a rep came out and told me I just had to paint them to match the house. I explained to him that this was not my job, and while I'm no roofing expert, I have never seen two by fours take the place of flashing. Soon thereafter, some workers came out to the house, ripped off the offending two by fours, and replaced them with flashing that blended in seamlessly with the house and trim. Why they didn't do this to begin with, I don't know. Thus, it took some fighting on my part to get it done right.
- The same goes for returning purchases. I don't believe in return policies, warranty periods, and all that legal mumbo jumbo. If you sold me something and it hasn't performed as it should, I'm going to return it. Actually, I've found that at most department stores, home centers, etc., the employees won't make a fuss about returns. As long as you're being reasonable and not returning a five-year-old blender with margarita residue caked on it, they'll oblige your return. I had a coffee maker I received as a Christmas gift that was close to a year old. It started to leak. Unacceptable. Back to the store it went, and I earned a $50 store credit for my troubles.
Now you might be reading this and thinking, “Is it worth it?” Or, “You sound like a jerk.” Or, “I'd rather have a few less dollars than be fighting with people on the phone all the time.”
But think about this: A five-minute phone call that results in just $25 back in your pocket means you just earned $300/hour. Would you turn down a job that pays $300/hour? If you really care about your finances, and you want to get rich (slowly), you need to show it. You need to fight for your money — because no one cares about it more than you.