In Finance, what is Non-Negotiable?

Malcolm Tatum

As it relates to matters of investing or finance, a non-negotiable is a term that is used to indicate that the price of an asset is fixed, and cannot be adjusted for any reason. The term may be used to describe the sale price of various types of securities, real estate, or any type of product or item where there is no opportunity to deliberate on the price. Non-negotiable may also refer to any asset or item that is not available for sale at any price.

Savings bonds are investment instruments with a non-negotiable purchase price.
Savings bonds are investment instruments with a non-negotiable purchase price.

When referring to the price of investments, one of the more common examples of a non-negotiable instrument would be a savings bond issued by a government entity. In many countries, once a government bond is sold, only the individual whose name appears on the bond can actually redeem the security. It is not unusual for bonds of this type to be considered non-negotiable if the regulations governing the bond issue forbid the resale of the bond to another party.

Real estate is non-negotiable if it is not for sale at any price.
Real estate is non-negotiable if it is not for sale at any price.

It is also possible for other investment instruments to be considered non-negotiable. When used to refer to the status of a security, an asset of this type may be called a registered security, indicating that the price is set and cannot be changed. Investors sometimes use the terms non-marketable or non-transferable securities to describe the same set of circumstances related to an investment that is non-negotiable.

A sale of property may also take place using a price that is non-negotiable. When that is the case, there is no opportunity to submit an offer that is below the asking price. Unless potential buyers are willing to pay the price set by the owner, the property will remain on the market until either the owner decides to sell for less, or a buyer comes along who is willing to pay the asking price.

Many businesses include non-negotiable rates in various types of agreements and contracts. The idea is to lock in the pricing for a specific period of time, preventing the vendor from shifting the rate structure upward, at least until the contract expires. At the same time, a non-negotiable contract for some type of goods and services is also intended to prevent the buyer from asking for lower pricing as long as the contract is in force. In reality, many of these purportedly non-negotiable contracts contain provisions that allow the buyer and seller to roll the existing agreement into a new agreement that does provide a different pricing structure.

Cellular phone contracts may contain provisions where the service price is non-negotiable for a set period of time.
Cellular phone contracts may contain provisions where the service price is non-negotiable for a set period of time.

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Discussion Comments

@NathanG - A non negotiable stipulation is not always a restriction. For example, with investment securities it’s actually a protection.

I bought a savings bond for my son a few years ago. It will mature in about twenty years. He is the only one who can redeem it. That protects him.

I can’t cash it for extra money to splurge on my own wants and desires (not that I would want to do that), and no one else can use it either. So when the time comes he will be the sole beneficiary of the money that accrues on that bond.

He can do whatever he wants with it, use it to fund college or whatever. But it’s his money.


@MrMoody - Yeah, "one off" items here and there won’t hurt the store much. I do agree that customers have more leverage at their disposal than they realize.

It’s in the commercial sector that non negotiable contracts tend to be set in stone, but sometimes even that can change and end up hurting you in the end. For example, our church went on a building program some years ago. They got some decent rates on wood supplies from a particular vendor.

The vendor was willing to lock in their rates for a set time period. That helped us for awhile. Then hurricane Katrina hit. That vendor’s costs suddenly went through the roof since they were located in that area.

They honored the same contract with its rates, but as soon as the term of contract expired they hiked their rates. We had to put our building program on hold until for awhile until we could find another vendor with lower rates.


It’s interesting to discover what is really non negotiable and what is not. In times of economic downturn, financial advisors will tell you that it’s possible to go into a store and negotiate prices on certain items, even if the store does not normally allow you to do that.

Of course it depends on how badly they need to clear out the items and if there are already enough people willing to pay for the item at the regular price.

It couldn’t hurt to try. You just need to be reasonable. Don’t ask for 50% off or something like that. But it doesn’t hurt to see if you can get 20% or so in my opinion. I actually think you gain more leverage if you show that you’re buying a bunch of stuff instead of one item. The store will still make a profit on volume.


@wavy58 – I think that realtors might be more willing to negotiate with people on prices than homeowners, since they have a lot of properties to move. When you are dealing with the homeowner directly, it can be tough to get them to lower their price.

My neighbor has been trying to sell his house for over a year. He is determined to sell it for $150,000, but for many people around here, that is just too much.

He has had several offers up to $120,000, but he tells people that he will not settle for less than $150,000. He is retired, and I think that he is worried about having enough money to support himself and his wife for the rest of their lives. He may never sell that house, but he will die trying to get $150,000!


The vast majority of the time, house prices are negotiable. My brother got the owner of his current house to come down $10,000 on the price.

When the real estate market goes through tough times, realtors are more lenient and willing to negotiate on the prices. I keep up with the local newspaper's real estate publication, because I am thinking of buying a house, and I have seen prices drop by over $50,000 at times.

This just makes me wonder how far they would come down on a price in a negotiation with a customer. Those listed drops were based on current market value, and I have a feeling that they might be so desperate to sell anything at all that I could talk them way down.


@Perdido – I have had that same trouble in my workplace. I work at the counter of a fine jewelry store, and I just don't have the authority to lower prices.

I think that the more expensive an item is, the more people assume that they can negotiate on it. In some cases, like in antique stores, that is true, but in others, you just have to respect the price that the store owner has placed on an item.

I have had several people walk out in a huff because I told them that the prices were non-negotiable. I don't know if other jewelry stores have this same policy, but the only time we offer an item for a lower price is when we have a sale.


I work for a newspaper, and the sales representatives have all their customers sign contracts before they advertise with us. I am a graphic designer for the newspaper, and I overhear a lot of their phone conversations with customers. I recently heard that one of them became upset because the sales rep would not negotiate the price.

She told him that our advertising rates are set in stone, and they are the same for everyone. He complained that since he had been a loyal customer for years, they should cut him a deal. She told him this was just not possible.

He was a car dealer, so he naturally assumed that everything was negotiable. He thought he could talk anyone down in price, but he didn't realize that some businesses just don't operate that way.

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