This past winter I made a bad, bad, bad business decision in hiring a launch company for my new book. Being a small business owner myself, I tend to be lenient towards other small business owners and to avoid questioning them or negotiating fees.
This terrible decision ended up losing me $6,500 — at a time where I had put off my paying clients for four straight months to work on the book. Ouch… that hurt.
After some soul-searching, I started to realize I’d always been nice in a way that empties my bank account faster than a keg at a college party. For example:
- I once hired an assistant out of sympathy — choosing him over 90 other applicants, many of whom were better qualified — and ended up paying a lot for little actual work.
- Whenever I’m presented with a “Pay What You Want” situation, I pay way more than average, because the seller is “an entrepreneur like me.”
- Whenever a potential reader emails me with a sob story about how they can’t afford $4.95 for one of my books, I send them the book for free.
- When my husband and I sold our first house, three people jumped to buy it. But instead of holding a bidding war, we gave it — at the original price — to the first person who looked at the house, because she told us she wanted to raise a family there. At the closing, this woman threw a literal screaming-and-crying fit over a small issue with the contract.
- I’m an extra-big tipper because 30 years ago I waitressed for six months, so “I know how it is.”
- And of course, there was the issue with the book launcher who bullied me when I asked, “Um, what exactly are you guys doing for the $6,500 I paid you?” — and I let him.
This last situation was the smack in the face I needed to finally smarten up.
I realized that “nice” people often spend (and neglect to save) because we fear harming someone else, because we feel guilty or because we don’t want to look stingy.
And we’re afraid if we question service providers, they’ll feel insulted.
All of this makes us put strangers ahead of ourselves and our loved ones, financially speaking.
I now know we need to put ourselves and our families first — because if we don’t, we end up strapped for cash and feeling desperate.
Consider this: We can be of more help to others when we’re feeling abundant, peaceful and financially organized than when we’re harried, stressed and broke.
This isn’t about being tightfisted or not giving of yourself to others — it’s being deliberate about what you share with whom, using your cash where it will have the most impact and not doling out cash out of a sense of guilt.
If you’re ready to learn from my mistakes and stop being too nice, here are five ways to toughen up — and start rebuilding your bank account.
1. Negotiate a Raise From Your Employer or Clients
We’re often afraid to ask to be paid what our work is worth — but your livelihood is at stake here!
If you can prove the value you’re bringing to your employer or client has risen with time — maybe you’re bringing in new customers, you created a lucrative new product or system, or you’ve helped your employer cut costs — try to negotiate for a bigger check.
For example, when I was a fairly new writer, I asked my editor at Family Circle for a raise. At the time I was earning $1 per word, and I had written several articles for them that garnered great feedback.
The editor boosted my rate to $1.50 per word and asked me not to tell anyone, because I was now their highest-paid writer!
2. Watch Your Bank Statements Like a Hawk
Going through your finances every week with a sharp eye may make you feel mean and cheap, but remember: This is money you earned that might be put to better use for you and your family.
Be vigilant about terminating subscriptions, canceling payments you’d forgotten about and cutting out expenses that don’t serve you.
I did this recently and discovered several charges and subscriptions I didn’t even know were being sucked from my account — a whopping $80 per month’s worth. (That’s date night right there!)
3. Be Hardcore About Hiring
Before hiring a professional or a service of any kind, from graphic designers to landscapers, ask the hard questions — and don’t worry about offending them.
What exactly will they do for you, when, how, and for how much? I’ve discovered real pros welcome these questions. If they become angry, say “sayonara, suckers” and find someone better.
Someone you hired doing a less-than-stellar job? Tell them to shape up, or cut them loose. Don’t feel bad about expecting good service from the people and companies you’re paying!
I ended up cutting the book launch company loose and hiring someone who was cheaper and better — and who had good answers to all my questions.
4. Demand Good Service From Stores
If you’re like I used to be, when you’re making dinner and you discover one of the bell peppers you bought yesterday is moldy on the inside, you just toss the offending veggie and move on.
No more! These small wastes add up, and you have the right to expect usable products in exchange for your money. Bring that nasty thing back and ask for a refund or replacement.
Last fall I spent more than $200 on jeans and a cardigan that lasted only a few wears before they both developed ugly pills in the fabric. I let them sit in my closet for months, thinking somehow I would fix them… until I finally got sick of feeling peeved every time I opened my closet and saw the items hanging there, mocking me.
I contacted the headquarters of the store where I bought the clothing and explained my situation. Even though it was well past the return deadline, the company offered me a gift card in the amount I spent on the defective clothes.
5. Reward Only the Best Service
You don’t need to tip 25% because you know the server earns minimum wage, buy your kids’ teachers expensive gifts you can’t afford because you know they don’t earn much or leave a big check for the garbage collector at Christmas because you’d feel guilty otherwise.
Gift big when the service warrants it. Otherwise, the usual amount or a token gift of appreciation is perfect.
Sure, it’s nice to be nice — but not when it hurts you financially. Learn from my mistakes, and don’t wait until your bank account is drained dry before finally standing up for yourself.
Your Turn: Are you “too nice,” and has it hurt your bank account? What have you done to change your tendencies?
Linda Formichelli has been a full-time freelance writer since 1997. She’s the author of How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie, which will be FREE on Amazon.com for three days starting June 30, 2016 (Kindle format only). Go grab your copy before the price goes back up!