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You can be one question away from saving money. If you don't ask for discounts, you're missing opportunities to hang on to more of your hard-earned cash. It can be tough to muster up the courage, but it gets easier once you've done it a few times. You don't have to be a tough negotiator. Be honest, undemanding and prepared for rejection. Many places offer unadvertised student, senior, military and employer discounts or will reduce the price if you buy in bulk, merchandise is slightly flawed, or if you're a frequent and good customer.

Where have you been successful asking for a discount?
FAVORITE BRANDS: Call, e-mail, or write to your favorite product manufacturers. Be sincere in complimenting them on their products, and ask whether they offer any coupons. On the flip side, if a product is unsatisfactory, let them know, too.

GROCERY STORES: Talk to a manager, and ask when they mark down meats or have reduced-price produce or bakery items. Asking these simple questions can make a big difference in your grocery bill.

SECONDHAND SHOPPING: If you shop thrift stores, ask a manager whether they have a preset sales schedule. You can also ask whether they can keep an eye out for certain items for you and call you if they get the item in stock. Of course, not all stores will do this but you won't know if you never ask. You can ask friends and family to look for things for you when they're shopping, too. You can exchange wish lists and help one another out to increase your chances of finding the secondhand items you want.

MEDICAL SERVICES: Ask family doctors, dentists, pharmacies or veterinarians whether they'll give a discount for visits if you pay cash. One reader, Kate in Pennsylvania, shares: "When I was unemployed last year, I asked my doctors if they would be willing to negotiate a sliding fee for cash. They all said YES! So, instead of charging $160 per office visit to the insurance company, and then fighting with the bureaucrats over it and waiting for a check, now they only charge me $35 per visit." Sometimes, if you offer cash for a prescription, it can be cheaper than using your prescription-insurance coverage. Ask your vet whether he or she offers discounts for multiple pets, and don't forget to ask doctors' offices for samples, too.

EMPLOYER: Ask human resources whether there are company perks, such as discounts to local museums, ballparks or movie theaters. Some companies offer discounted cell-phone service plans, too.

BANKS: Ask for free checks. Another reader, Nicole in Texas, shares: "I used to pay for checks through the bank, and one day I went in and told them the other banks were giving free checks, and I think they should give me free checks, too. They said OK. It was that easy. I really didn't think they would do it."