One morning while eating a grapefruit, Christine Culver had an idea.
In an attempt to save money on decor, she took the six slimy grapefruit seeds from her breakfast and planted them.
Recently divorced and tight on money, Culver, with her 19-year-old son, had just moved into a small apartment in Maryland. They split rent and furnished the space with thrift-store finds, hand-me-downs and dumpster-dive treasures. “The Penthouse,” they called it.
“Spending money on a houseplant seemed like a crazy decadence, when I literally was living on salted rice for about a third of each pay period,” she says. “Having those little grapefruit trees sprouting on my windowsill made me feel like I would eventually be in a better spot.”
That was six years ago. Culver, now 51, has since moved to Alexandria, Virginia, where she’s secured a higher-paying job as a tech editor. She’s in a much better place financially. She maxes out her 401(k) contributions, plans to tackle her student loan debt and saves for future travels with her boyfriend, David.
“Calmly planning for the future is a lot more pleasant than desperately hoping your car doesn’t break down before payday,” Culver says.
Even so, Culver still looks for ways to save money. For one, she makes it a habit to negotiate her credit card’s interest rate each year. She’d had luck the first couple of times she called, but not in the past five years — not until she came across Trim, a personal finance assistant that negotiates the APR on her behalf.
It was worth a shot, right? After all, it could save her hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in case money was ever tight again.
A Brief Call, and Her Credit Card APR Dropped 13%
It’s not like Culver has a heap of credit card debt these days. She just finished paying off about $2,000, left from a few unexpected expenses last year. For her, the lower APR rate is more of a precautionary measure.
The first few times Culver picked up the phone and haggled with Citi, she had success.
“But after a while, they stopped listening to me,” she says with a laugh. “They were like, ‘Oh, that’s that woman. She calls every year.’”
Then Trim offered to step in and have an expert do the negotiating on her behalf.
Culver had signed up for Trim a while back but hadn’t yet taken advantage of its negotiation features (which include cable, internet and cell phone bills in addition to APR). She thought, though, that maybe this could work.
Here’s how Trim’s debt-negotiation feature works:
- After signing up for Trim, you’ll gain access to its debt-payoff features, which include APR-negotiation experts. You’ll schedule a phone call with one of Trim’s expert negotiators.
- You’ll chat with the negotiator for a few minutes. They might ask questions about your payment history, your debt or your credit score. They’ll use this information in the negotiation process.
- Trim adds your credit card company to the call. During the three-way call, you’ll sit back and relax. Occasionally the credit card’s representative will ask if you agree or authorize. Yes, yes, yes!
Culver says the whole process was smooth — and effective. Her Trim negotiator was able to get the credit card company to drop her interest rate from 15% to 13%.
Her negotiator even asked Citi to reimburse Culver for the previous month’s interest. No luck there, but she was impressed they thought to ask.
How a Few Percentage Points Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars
For context, the interest rate on the average credit card is north of 15%, according to data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Some cards reach 30% APR.
“I always want the lowest interest rate, even if I’m not pushing it right now with a bunch of debt,” Culver explains.
The two-point difference in APR might not sound like much, but over the course of a year, it can really add up — especially when money’s tight.
So… Is It Worth Calling in the Expert Negotiators?
For Culver, recruiting an expert negotiator to haggle her credit card interest rate down was well worth it — even if just for the peace of mind.
Tapping into Trim’s debt payoff tools — which include APR negotiation and a financial coach who’ll craft a personalized payoff plan — costs $10 a month. Savings will vary, but Trim reports it’s been able to save users an average of $1,169 in annual interest. Plus, there’s a 90-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy.
“There’s something about having someone who’s a professional calling on your behalf that’s so much more effective than you doing it yourself,” Culver says.
Trim let Culver know it’d reach out again in three to four months to set up another call to see what they can do next. Maybe they can bump her APR even lower.
“It’s always great to have more money in my pocket,” she says.
After all, Culver has big plans to build a greenhouse in her backyard this year.
Those grapefruit seedlings? They’re now trees — a few as tall as Culver herself. She’s been protecting them from the cold in her living room all winter. In their six years, they’ve not produced one fruit, but Culver still cares for them.
“They’re a reminder of how powerful a little seed of hope can be,” she says.
Carson Kohler ([email protected]) is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder.
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