There are two types of buyers in the world — the ones who lie down and take it, and the ones who can take it or leave it. If you’re in the former camp, it’s high time you learn how to stick to your guns and start shaving precious dollars off things you want and need. To hone your haggling skills, consider these tips from a few experts who know how to get things for less.
1. Establish a Budget and Stick to It
Before you set out on your trip, establish a budget for whatever it is you intend to buy. The goal is to get the dealer to meet you at that price or go even lower, and it’s important to have a threshold in mind so you know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em. “Make a decision about how high you’re willing to go before engaging the seller – then stick to it,” says CJ Legare, the founder of Functional Girl. “Haggling can be a passionate exchange; you don’t want to overpay in the heat of the moment.”
2. Arrive Well-Researched
It’s important to know your stuff before you engage in any bargaining, which is why it’s important to research the item you’re buying. Show signs of uncertainty and, like a rabid dog can smell fear, the dealer, too, will sense your weakness.
“Whether shopping for a new car or attempting to lower a cable plan, great hagglers have done their homework and know what the competition is offering, current market prices, product/service specifications, so that they can negotiate with power,” says consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “You can’t get much accomplished if you don’t know what you’re talking about. Online reviews can provide a treasure trove of information — who the fair negotiators are, who has inventory worth paying for, and who to avoid.”
3. Inspect the Item Meticulously
Get a leg up on the deal by inspecting the item through and through. If you find any imperfections at all, add them to your arsenal. Dents and dings decrease the value of the item — so there’s no reason you should still be paying full price. “A flaw is a reality check,” Legare says, “but a flaw that you can work with is leverage that can make the difference between walking away empty-handed or getting a better deal.”
4. Stay Polite Throughout the Process
You know the old saying — you’ll attract more flies with honey than vinegar. Translation: Leave the sour attitude at home if you want to walk away a winner. Even when the bargaining isn’t going your way, stay polite, keep a smile on your face, and lose like a winner. It’s not the end of the world, and there’s always tomorrow. “You won’t get anywhere by yelling or being rude. Specifically, this is true with monthly expenses and medical bills,” Woroch says.
5. Flash That Cash
There are times when flashing your money is downright obnoxious (like most of the time!), but when it comes to haggling, busting out the cash isn’t always a bad idea. Cash in hand lets the dealer knows that you came to play ball — and you’ve got the bills to back it up.
“One of the best haggling tips I’ve learned is to ‘show the cash,'” says attorney Richard A. Chapo. “First, know what you are willing to pay. Second, have it on hand in cash. Three, haggle with the cash in your hand where the salesperson or manager can see it. The cash tells them you are serious and ready to buy now, which is ever tempting and often turns a ‘no’ into a ‘yes.'”
In addition to flashing the cash, be sure to let the dealer how much you’re working with as well. This solidifies that you’re serious, but it also gives the impression that if they don’t meet your price, you’ll most likely walk away.
“Great hagglers state their terms and see if there is any wiggle room,” says Mindy Crary, financial planning coach at Creative Money. “[For example], ‘You have so many great offerings here and I’d love to buy more than one but I am only working with $X today. Would you be willing to work with me a little?’ I once got three vintage rings for the stated price of two on Etsy by using the ‘praise + limit + offer’ process.”
6. Put on Your Poker Face
Emotion equals weakness, and in business that’s a death sentence. No matter how badly you want something, it’s critical to keep your cool. Express interest, but that’s it. Treat it like any ol’ thing that you can get someplace else — at least in front of the dealer anyway.
“When presented with an item you’re dying to own/buy or a deal that seems really good, don’t appear overly excited or anxious, which may hinder your bargaining power,” says Woroch. “The less excited you are over something, the more the sales associate needs to sell you on it.”
Legare seconds that sentiment. “If a seller realizes you’re excited about an item, they’ll use it to their advantage during the haggle,” she says.
7. Review Your Bills Regularly
Haggling isn’t just done at car dealerships and antique shops. Sometimes you need to work people down in other situations — even with big companies. Woroch says that she haggles every few months to keep her cable and Internet bills down. “I also recently haggled my way out of credit card interest for two months,” she says. “If I didn’t stay on top of my bills and review my account, I may not notice those small additional charges that would add up overtime.” It’s not a bad idea to take a look at your bills to see where you can trim some fat, too.
8. Don’t Take No for an Answer
If you were willing to take no for an answer, you could’ve just stayed at home. “When a store associate can’t help or you’re getting nowhere with a customer service rep, it’s time to take things up a notch –ask to speak with a supervisor or manager who has more power to work with you on a deal. Better yet, speak with a retention specialist when dealing with bills like cable, Internet and mobile phones,” Woroch says.
9. Walk Away
You’ve lived without the item until today, which means that if the dealer isn’t willing to meet your ideal but reasonable price, you can live without it a little longer. Don’t be afraid to take your money someplace else. You might just get what you want after all. “When shopping for certain goods like appliances, furniture, and cars, salespeople can be pushy and it’s easy to lose your ground,” Woroch says. “A great haggler won’t be afraid to walk away from a deal knowing that that a salesperson wants his or her business and will likely come running after or call you with a deal.”
10. Provide Loyalty in Appreciation of Great Deals
I know lots of professionals – event planners and interior designers especially – who get great discounts on a regular basis from stores around town because they’re frequent customers and they’re always referring someone new. Mom-and-pop brick-and-mortar owners, in particular, are usually thankful for this practice and provide loyalty discounts accordingly.
Lagare’s seen it before, too. “Don’t underestimate the power of relationship building,” she says. “When you find fair sellers with great inventory, bring them your business regularly and they’ll throw you great deals in return.”