School and business environments teach us to ask questions, explore, and approach the world with a critical eye. Unfortunately, we tend to forget these lessons when we're shopping. We see a sticker price, or we're told a cost, and we think, "That's it! Time to spend more money …"

Believe it or not, there's more to shopping than sticker price. Consumerism is an art, and with the right strategy, you can easily keep costs down. Beyond time-consuming activities like couponing, negotiating is a great place to start. It's something that we frequently forget to do, despite its value as a skill. Ultimately, you're your own best advocate, so here are seven costs that you should always negotiate.

1. Car Care Expenses
When a mechanic, auto body shop or car wash quotes you a price, ask if they have any discounts. If you're a student, ask for a student discount. If you're a new customer, ask for a new customer discount. If you're a regular shopper, ask for a preferred client discount. If you don't ask, you'll never get it. (Check out more tips in Top 5 Money-Saving Tips For Your Car.)

2. Credit Card Interest Rates
If your credit card interest rate seems unusually high, you should probably call your credit card company. To some extent, credit card rates are negotiable, so you should always call and ask questions. Again, if you don't ask, you'll never know.

3. Medical Bills
If you find yourself with a medical bill that you can't afford, call your insurance company to negotiate coverage. If you can't afford the insurance company's price, or if you have a high deductible, you can call the medical provider where you received services. At the very least, you should be able to set up an interest-free payment plan.

4. Vacation Packages
If you don't see a price that you like online, call the hotel, airline, or travel agent of your choice. Compare prices, and see if competitors will beat each other's' prices.

5. Gym Memberships
If you love to work out, you know that a gym membership costs more than the monthly fee. For instance, there are initiation and signing fees. Instead of reluctantly paying these, see if you can negotiate with a sales associate, or try to find a promotion online. For instance, you can buy 24 Hour Fitness memberships from Costco at a discounted rate - you pay a lump sum for two years instead of receiving a monthly bill. (Find more great deals in 4 Unexpected Warehouse Club Bargains.)

6. ATM Transaction Fees
If you find yourself in a situation where you need to use an ATM from a bank or provider outside of your network, you should call your bank soon after. You may be able to have these fees reversed. In order to receive this service, you need to ask because you won't be automatically reimbursed.

7. Personal Services
If you pay for personal services like hair styling, landscaping or house cleaning, you should try to negotiate your rates. Maybe you can arrange to receive the service more frequently at a lower price. You might also be able to lower the price altogether.

The Bottom Line
You are your strongest advocate, and you are smart. Always second-guess an item's sticker price to keep your costs down. You will be pleasantly surprised by how much you save, and over time, you'll become a highly skilled negotiator.

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