September is College Savings Month, a time for spotlighting Section 529 plans for families to put their kids through college. But for those of you already in college, the concern now is with making sure those funds don’t run out before graduation. One way to do that that you may have overlooked is haggling. After all, a penny saved is a penny earned, and you may be overspending for furniture, clothes, books, even cars by not quibbling over the price. Start trying some of these tips in your purchasing and you may be astounded to see just how far your budget can stretch.
- Everything is negotiable:
This is rule No. 1 in haggling. No one will tell you they’re willing to bend on the price; you have to assume it and proceed accordingly.
- It never hurts to ask:
From overnight delivery to upgrades and add-ons, you never know what you can get for free unless you ask.
- Pick your battles:
For example, if you’ve already invested money in a cab ride and a cover charge, it’s not worth risking getting kicked out of the club for haggling over the price of a drink.
- Know the market:
You can successfully haggle over major deals like rent and college scholarships if you know for a fact what prices the market will bear.
- Go late:
As the day goes on, sellers will be more and more inclined to reduce their asking prices so they can get rid of merchandise. The same is true for the end of the month, when managers are trying to meet quotas.
- Increase your offers slower and slower:
Don’t jump your offers in equal increments. You should offer less and less of an increase each time you counter as you approach your target price.
- Buy in bulk:
For the chance to unload several items at once, many sellers will agree to a lower price if you buy multiple items together.
- Play it cool:
Haggling requires a bit of acting. Even if you are dying to buy something, showing a little hesitation and acting like you could take it or leave it really does help your chances of a better deal.
- Let them speak first:
Whenever possible, let the seller throw out the starting price for your negotiation to make sure you don’t start higher than he was going to ask.
- Find the right person to deal with:
Before you make an offer on something, do some observing to gauge which of the sales reps or vendors seems like the biggest pushover.
- Check the guidebook:
The best way to know the cultural idiosyncrasies of haggling in a certain region is to check the guidebook to make sure you don’t inadvertently offend someone.
- Don’t be a tease:
Unlike in the U.S., it’s frowned upon to ask the price of an item unless you’re intending to begin the haggling process.
- Start at 10% of asking price:
UK’s “Money Saving Expert” Martin Lewis has a shocking tip for most traveling Americans: at touristy markets, your first offer should be one-tenth of whatever the seller is asking.
- Let a pro do it:
Two words: travel agent. Let a pro do the haggling for you, especially if you’re getting a rental car and hotel.
- Ask for the government rate:
If a hotel is not fully booked, a manager might consent to give you the government or AARP rate. Again, it never hurts to ask.
- Don’t be guilt-tripped:
Vendors may give you treats or ply you with sob stories about poverty, but don’t let it hinder your haggling for the best price.
- Ask in their language:
It’s a curious thing, but items tend to magically become lower priced when a shopper asks in the local tongue, as opposed to English.
- Make a trade:
Especially in poorer countries, you might be able to convince a seller to make an even swap for something you want with something you have.
- Secure your money safely:
Your budget won’t last long if you’re hit by a pickpocket because you were flashing your money around while haggling.
- Enlist a local:
It’s kind of cheating, but hiring a local guide gives you someone to haggle lower prices for you.
- Dress for the occasion:
You’ll have a much harder time convincing a seller you can’t go any higher when you’re wearing new Armani jeans than when you’re rocking torn old Levis.
- Be polite:
Haggling is a gentleman’s game. If you go in rude and abrupt, the seller is not going to bend. Also, don’t insult him or her with too low an offer.
- Don’t worry how you look:
Most people don’t haggle for fear of looking like a cheapskate. It’s called being a savvy consumer, and it means more money in your wallet, so forget all that.
- Be prepared to walk away:
Turning your back on the deal shows a seller you’re serious and might motivate him to come down to your price.
- Be discreet:
If you haggle too loudly a seller may balk for fear of other customers overhearing and angling for the same discount, so keep it on the down low.
- Create a rapport with the seller:
You don’t have to be a complete poser, but haggling will be easier if you can find some common ground with the seller.
- Don’t be afraid of awkward silences:
Sometimes if you simply keep your mouth shut long enough, a seller will come down or throw in more incentive without any prompting.
- Get scientific:
Trained salesmen use something called neuro-linguistic programming to get you to do what they want. Turn the tables on them by watching their body language and mirroring it back to them.
Sales consultant Kelly Robertson recommends literally wincing when you hear the price, to make it clear how uncomfortable you are with it.
- Be reasonable:
It’s not really worth robbing somebody just to save a few bucks. Know when to say a good deal is good enough.
What to Bring
- A wingman or wingwoman:
There’s strength in numbers. Bring along a friend to act unimpressed in whatever you’re haggling over and make the seller doubt his price.
You might be able to avoid haggling altogether if you show a seller a flier or printout of a price for a similar item at a competitor’s shop, and ask him to match the deal.
- A student ID:
Movie theaters give students a discount; why shouldn’t other retailers and service providers? Take your ID and see if it buys you some leverage.
Not only do sellers appreciate not having to mess with credit cards, there’s something about having the cash in hand that can prompt them to take a lower offer.
- Service provider:
Before you switch cable, cell, or Internet providers, call them first to tell them you’re leaving unless they make you a better deal.
Cite a “higher authority” to the dealer. When he cites a number, say you might be able to go higher once you check with your parents/spouse.
Even if you can’t get the seller to come down on the price, see if you can wrangle deals on a frame, delivery, and removal of your old mattress.
- Electronics accessories:
At smaller electronics stores, with determination you may be able to haggle your way to a case or protective sleeve.
- Engagement ring:
Do your homework so that you know about cut, clarity, and color when you go ring shopping. Most experts will tell you cut is the most important, so don’t place too high priority on the others.
- Medical bills:
Hospitals know as well as retailers that some money is better than nothing. Use Medicare pricing as a guide for what you should offer.
There is always a sale on furniture, so don’t be talked out of haggling for a discount.
- Newspaper subscription: Str
uggling papers have been known to literally let customers who call to cancel name their price for a yearly subscription. And news flash: most newspapers are struggling.
- Gym membership:
Hold the option of the campus rec center’s gym over a gym rep’s head to get a lower price and paid programs thrown in for free.
If you wait until late enough in the summer, you can get a landlord to throw in new paint, new furniture, and other updates.
- Say “Help me spend my money here”:
Haggling shouldn’t be an argument, it should be a friendly conversation that ends with both parties feeling like they benefited.
- Don’t show the cash too early:
Saying how much you can spend, or worse, showing how much cash you have on you, is a last resort to employ when you know you have less than the seller is asking.
- Hit the flea market:
If the idea of haggling makes you uncomfortable, start at flea markets. It’s absolutely expected that everyone haggles there, so you won’t feel as self-conscious.
- Make an offer on an ended eBay item:
If an eBay auction ends with no one having won it, contact the seller and haggle over a lower price for it. If you reach an agreement, have him sell it to you using the “Buy It Now” feature (so that eBay doesn’t boot you).
- Check the tags:
Bargain bins at chain stores often contain one or two items mistakenly marked much farther down than intended. Unfortunately for them, if you find one, they have to honor the price.
- Pit vendors against each other:
This will only work at a flea market or street market where there are lots of sellers close to one another, but if you find two sellers with similar items, raise your voice enough to let another seller hear your offer. They may bite if the first seller passes.