Money Talks, So Should You

6 costs college grads should negotiate

As graduates step out into the real world, they’ll have to negotiate many of their new costs.

Scott Gamm
by Scott Gamm, MainStreet contributor (@ScottGamm)

May is synonymous with college graduations. But since college graduation isn't always synonymous with "lots of money," consider learning how to become a clever negotiator as your final required course:


Successful negotiators know their stuff. According to Kerry Patterson, co-author of "Crucial Conversations," if you want a raise, you need to “show evidence why you merit a higher salary. Also, have well-researched salary survey data documenting what other people get paid for similar roles, in similar companies and in the same geographic region.”

READ: The most common money mistakes that college students make

Think of it this way: If you’re in a store and you show the manager an advertisement from a competitor store selling the same item for a lower price, that manager will most likely match the price. You’re showing proof and tangible evidence, which strengthens your case.

If you think you’re underpaid at work, prove it! HR Specialist and founder of the Push Consultant Group, Joey Price, urges recent graduates to remember: “Rome wasn't built in a day. Neither are cushy salaries. Understand that regardless of experience, an entry-level position is still an entry-level position and therefore can only be paid so much.”

Car insurance

If you plan to buy or lease a car after graduation, you’ll need to tack on the hefty car insurance expense in addition to the cost of the car and gasoline.

    Eli Lehrer, vice president of the Heartland Institute, offers the following tips on saving money on car insurance, since it can rarely be negotiated and is usually set at a standard rate:

    • Drop collision coverage. If you drive an older car and no longer have payments on it, it may be worthwhile to drop collision coverage (which protects you from damage to your own car). You will rarely be paid more than the value of your car, and if the car is worth only $1,000, you may be paying more for the insurance than you will ever get from it.
    • Skip personal injury protection. Unless your state requires it — several do — you probably do not need medical expenses coverage as part of your auto insurance policy so long as you have medical insurance.
    • Raise your deductible. A zero deductible is almost never a good deal. Deductibles of $250 to $1,000 are often the best deal.

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    Gym membership

    After all those hours spent studying for finals and living on coffee, you have to get into shape, right? But why overpay for a gym membership?

    “Sales reps at the gym typically work off of monthly commissions and may be willing to give you a better deal at the end of the month because they are trying to meet their quota. Ask for initiation fees to be waived or reduced,” suggests Linda Swindling, author of "Get What You Want: Harness the Power of Positive Influence, Persuasion."

    As with any purchase, do your research and compare prices of different gyms in your neighborhood. Swindling also suggests finding an apartment complex with a gym in the building.

    Apartment leases

    Typically, May and June are the busiest and most expensive months for the rental market, since rentals are in high demand due to the hectic college graduation season.

    If possible, wait until August or the September following your graduation to rent an apartment, when demand is down. Some buildings in large cities will offer a month’s free rent as an incentive to lure renters. If your landlord is not offering, ask for a month or a half a month of free rent.

    See if you can get a free membership to the building’s gym, if it has one. And consider apartments on the lower floors of the building, which are typically cheaper. Sure, you may have a view of a brick wall, but at least you'll be in the building you like. Also, if you had a roommate in college, why not have a roommate after college?  Splitting the rent obviously makes post-college life a lot easier.

    READ: Ways that college students can budget


    You have your apartment, but now you have to furnish it. Chances are the apartment is on the smaller side, so there’s not much room for furniture. (Don’t worry, that’s good for your wallet.)

    Check eBay and Craigslist to buy used furniture. And consider buying floor models in furniture stores, since they're usually offered at deep discounts. Even if the table has a scratch or the leather couch has a small tear, these minor imperfections will be worth the savings.

    And remember shopping at Ikea for dorm room furniture? Take a stroll through that store again — you’ll find deals. Don’t think you’re too cool for Ikea just because you have your own apartment.

    Student discounts

    People get discounts at restaurants, movies and museums by showing their college ID. It doesn't have to end with your commencement ceremony.

    According to Stella Fayman of, “As long as you still have your student ID, merchants will give you the student discount, since you’re an early graduate. Many people will sympathize with new grads not magically making a ton of money out of school.”

    Also, magazines and newspapers typically offer students a hefty discount.