As a professional and a gentleman, I believe that everybody is entitled to be paid for the work, product or service they provide. I also recognize that what we are paying for at the time is not just for the immediate service, but for the time it took for the provider to learn their craft, build their store, and educate themselves proficiently in order to deliver to you the finest they can. Not all providers are the same, and most times it comes down to the individual you are working with, not the company name on the building. There are many variables to consider when determining fair price, and it's different in each circumstance and with each provider. However, sometimes (most times?) the provider considers their time or product to be worth more than you do, and it's OK to disagree. You can negotiate numerous places for your services, just by asking- and saving money.
Utilities: Perhaps the least understood commodity to save with, in the NY area you can shop for your electric- we've been doing it for years and saving substantially on our gas and electric bills. You don't have to settle for the standard utility prices- there are alternatives, and you can easily shop for the alternatives. Just go to your utility website and dig a little and compare- you'll be surprised at what you find.
Cash is King: Whether you write a check to someone or cash a check before going to the provider, it's the same after-tax dollars you are spending, but some providers prefer to receive cash instead of a check or credit card (go figure). Ask before you commit if they will discount the price for cash. You may be surprised at their reaction, and their willingness to discount the price.
Cable: It's a dog-eat-dog world out there when it comes to the cable providers. Just suggesting you may leave and go to a competitor alone usually gets them to knock off a few bucks off the bill, or give you a free service. Do your homework beforehand so you can tell them what you can get as opposed to their package. They hate losing a customer, especially to a competitor, so you are really in the driver's seat. If you don't get what you want, call back- but make sure to keep track of the name of the person you spoke to so you don't try again with the same operator!
Insurance rates: Not unlike cable and utilities, do the same with your car and homeowners insurance. Compare and feel free to switch. Remember to do your homework beforehand- the agents know full well their competitors rates. You do usually get a discount for having your car and homeowners coverage with the same company, so keep that in mind.
Credit card and bank fees: Another competitive industry. Negotiate your interest rate and all those other fees they love to lay on you. Again, there's a lot of competitors out there- they don't want you to leave them, so stand firm and tell them what you want, within reason.
Yes, most everything in life is negotiable. But the key is... if you don't ask, you won't get. It's all about whose pocket the extra money ends up in- your or theirs. Need I say more?