Baller on a Budget: The Power of Asking

When I give my workshops and particularly when I talk about what it means to “hustle”, I emphasize the importance and the magic of asking. Asking as an exercise in intellectual curiosity, but also as an exercise in self expression and taking initiative. Too often, people are not even aware of their choice to ask – to ask for help, for clarification, for a discount, for a raise, or for a hug. Or people may hear this advice and balk at the idea, seeing this “asking” tip as mere child’s play.

And indeed it is. Children know better than adults of the power of asking. Grown-ups providing child care may find it tiresome but what children are practicing when they are relentlessly asking “Why?” and “Why not?” – and what they can teach us – is the potency behind the determination to learn as well as the willingness to always try. That is, unfortunately, till we as supposedly wiser adults break them of this ‘bad’ habit. But, hey, I’m not here to tell you how to raise your kids. Only that you’re missing out on some major opportunities by not asking, by overlooking the power of asking or worse, by stigmatizing asking as pesky.

In reviewing my Baller on a Budget posts and thinking more deeply about where else I might be able to save some more money, I got around to revisiting my recurring bills. I had discontinued my gym membership, I dropped my energy bill down to less than a dollar a day, and I already canceled cable television – about 15 years ago (That stuff just eats money and dulls thinking).

Then I came across my phone and Internet bill! I’ve had it on auto-pay for so long that I couldn’t remember the last time I looked at it. I was surprised to see I was paying up to $60 on it monthly. I was given a special deal some time back which had apparently expired and the new figure ballooned without my knowledge. It was now nearly $30 for the land line and another $30 for so-so Internet service. But my home phone was so out of use that I actually had the ringer permanently switched to Off. I only had it in order to run DSL. Imagine, I was paying for some antiquated, cheap plastic telephone to literally collect dust.

So I called my provider, was very upfront about my intent to reduce my rates, explored my options in real-time dialogue, and finally got around to asking about the possibility of “Dry” Internet. I’ve heard of it but how does it work and is it available in my area? Some people call it standalone or “Naked” Internet and it basically means maintaining an Internet connection sans the land line. And I learned that it’s actually faster than what I had at the moment. I’ve asked for discounts and special promotions in the past and, wouldn’t you know, they always seem to have one right before you quit the service. By the end of the conversation, I had a new modem and wireless router mailed to my house, the land line was removed, and my new, better Internet service would begin at an introductory price of $20 for the first six months, then $30 after.

MATH: $60 x 12 months = $720, prior annual total
MATH: ($20 x 6 months = $120) + ($30 x 6 months = $180) = $300, new annual total
MATH: $720 – $300 = $420 of savings in the first year!

Yes, kind of awesome. And all because I asked!

Now, let’s review our Baller on a Budget dollar and plus signs to date…

MATH: $159.06 (Spare Change) + $360.00 (Commuter Savings) + $420 (Internet Bill Savings) = $939.06!
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5 responses to “Baller on a Budget: The Power of Asking”

  1. bjr says:

    ah yes now you’re inspiring me to reduce my smart phone bill….

    but back to asking in the arts. YES. having been at this for many, many years now, i’ve learned not to take for granted whether honorarium would happen, or transportation costs, or whether my books will be sold (and by whom). also, i’ve learned to ask other artists for book reviews or gigs – these become in-kind or gift economy stuff, i.e. in exchange for the stuff i do for other community artists.

    i think folks may be afraid of asking because the answer might be NO. but also, because perhaps folks think asking would be perceived as demanding, prima donna behavior.

    so back to gift economy. if i’m including other artists in the programs i curate and host, or if i bring them into classroom when i teach their work, or if i teach community poetry workshop pro bono, or if i review others’ books, or if i include other writers in publications i’m editing, a lot of which i do for no or little $, then it isn’t being a prima donna to ask for stuff.

  2. bjr says:

    hi again! one more point:

    but i should also say there are artists who ask for stuff, but don’t really give much back to others. in my mind, that’s not good practice.

  3. Hey Barbara! I love that you mentioned “gift economy”. I’ve been meaning for a long time now to write about “exchange value”. It’s such a simple yet radical yet completely sensible concept that I’m having to take extra time to plot my points. I think you hit it dead on in your second comment: artists who ask for stuff, but don’t really give much back = not good practice.

    So, if we each can make sure we offer our best always and as selflessly as possible, if we are always giving back or better yet, giving first, then we will put ourselves in a better position to ask.

    And also, the funny and ironic thing about fearing being perceived as a prima donna is if we truly were not, then wouldn’t we be OK being told ‘no’ once in a while? Contrary to popular belief, asking – depending on one’s intention – can help refine humility.

  4. […] Salgado’s got another good post over at He’s talking about asking, and how artists need to be better at this. My response to him is […]

  5. […] with the momentum from the last Baller on a Budget post: The Power of Asking, I now offer you Part […]

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