Some Dads teach you how to tie your shoe, ride your bike, even how to parallel park. My Dad gave me the crash course on how to get anything I want in life, starting the day I bought my first car.
I’ve mentioned before that my Dad’s “foolproof” car-buying secrets helped me buy my first car at a $3,000 price drop. Those financial tips have helped open a few other doors, including getting my dream job and landing the right relationship.
This Dad-patented method isn’t just about negotiating a sticker price. It’s really about the approach and attitude you have when achieving your goals. Dad always drilled that getting what I want in life isn’t magic; it’s more strategy than serendipity.
There is a formula for getting what you want in life. My Dad knew it well, and now, you will too.
1) Stick to a clear purpose.
“What do you need a car for?”
“Well… getting groceries, to get to work, and… to visit you of course, Dad!”
Dad’s question came up often as I researched cars. I was on the fence about whether I should buy a new or used car, so Dad asked me again. When I remarked that the Mini Cooper has superior handling as clearly demonstrated in The Italian Job, Dad asked. While contemplating whether to get Dyno Blue Pearl or Alabaster Silver Metallic, Dad still asked. It was his understated way of reminding me why I needed a car in the first place: errands and commuting. In the end, practicality won over flashy and I selected a 2007 used Honda Civic.
Having a clear purpose helps simplify hard or complicated decisions. It’s a philosophy I’ve fallen back on again and again. At the crossroads of every major relationship, I’ve played my Dad’s card. “What is this relationship really for?” My answer: to make me happy. That reminder always made the next move painfully clear. When faced with a decision, like a major career move or handling a personal conflict, go back to your singular purpose and stick to achieving that. Other priorities and details will fall into place.
2) Know your opportunities and timing.
“Let’s wait until the end of the month to look for your car.”
“But Dad, that’s 3 weeks from now.”
“…. Let’s wait until the end of the month.”
Luck, schmuck; Dad knew that a great deal doesn’t just happen. Many dealerships slash prices at the end of the month to meet their sales goals, so if you’re looking to cut a deal, they’re most flexible around this time. Also, knowing the price at other dealers and even private sellers helps establish a competitive baseline for you to negotiate price. Dad’s formula for getting a great deal is 10% good timing and 90% strategy. Strategy is all about knowing where opportunities are and seizing them.
Dad’s approach to car-buying also helped me find my perfect job. With a think-outside-the-box strategy, I started looking in the financial industry for a creative job because financial services need writers too, right? I landed this dream job at Credit Karma because I looked for the right opportunities in unlikely places. The out-of-the-box opportunities are often the worthwhile ones, so be open-minded yet aim strategically.
3) Seek out the right person.
“Dad, where are you going? The front door is this way.”
“The back door leads to where the dealership’s offices are.”
“But that’s not where the cars are Dad…”
Dad never stepped foot on the sales lot with the shiny cars and giant inflatable gorillas. He sought out the dealership’s other entrance and went straight to the offices of the Internet Sales Manager or General Sales Manager’s office. These managers knew the inventory and they could make the final decision when we negotiated price. My Dad doesn’t waste time, so getting face-to-face with the decision-makers is how he cut through the sales pitch and worked directly with people who had authority to stamp the deal.
Doors can open more easily if you approach the right person with the keys. Submitting your resume straight to the hiring manager, asking for the store manager to get issues resolved, or in my experience, contacting the right editor to get something published, proves to be more successful efforts to getting what you want. So who is the “right person”? Whoever has the power to make what you want happen; just find that back door.
4) Know when to walk away.
“Dad, I really want this car.”
“What’s your price?”
“I want to pay under $15,300.But he won’t budge on the price.”
“Well you don’t really need this car today, do you?”
My Dad spent a whole decade working to get promoted and transferred to the United States, so even though patience isn’t a virtue I inherited from him, he did teach me not to go for the easy wins and to shoot for the long-term payoffs. On occasion, that means knowing when to walk away. Two weeks later, I sealed a great deal to buy the car I wanted under $15,000and in Alabaster Silver Metallic.
Dad’s most important lesson was that, sometimes, you don’t get what you want. But that doesn’t mean giving up. If means knowing there are other alternatives and choices, and to come back to it when it’s the right time, place, and budget. Maybe that means saving up more money to buy the home of your dreams or waiting till next year to take your once-in-a-lifetime vacation.
Of course, not all of Dad’s advice applied neatly to the grand scheme of life. For example, he told me in grade school that I could learn a thing or two from watching more football. Most recently, he advised me to be more like my Mom in the way I cook, and less like her in the way I drive.
Above all, Dad always reminded me, “You’re always learning.” Whether it’s buying a car or tackling your bucket list, that’s the most valuable trick to getting what you want.
Justine Rivero is the Credit Advisor and resident Credit Rockstar for Credit Karma, the pro-consumer credit advocate that helps more than 2.6 million consumers realize the everyday cost savings of having great credit health.