Any frugal shopper worth his salt knows two things when negotiating costs—bid low, and carry cash. But while the majority of price-haggling is done on car lots and in realtors’ offices, there are a slew of other negotiable prices that most people never consider.
Here’s a quick look at three areas where you could be paying too much, plus expert tips on how to haggle your way to big savings.
From a pair of suede boots to an extra-large saltwater aquarium, the price on many retail items are likely open for negotiation—as long as you’re willing to ask. “Consumers are only limited by their expectations of what can or cannot be negotiated,” says Janet Williams, master negotiator and author of You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get. “The key is giving the retail outlet a reason—and sometimes a way—to accommodate a request for a discount.”
Williams suggests that customers make sure they are speaking with a decision-maker. Try asking, Who do I need to talk to for a discount?—and then lay out a compelling, discount-worthy case. For example, are you a regular customer? Is the item damaged or imperfect? Will it be on sale next week? Is there a generic percent-off coupon the cashier can use? These are all factors worth mentioning when making the case for a mark-down.
Subscriptions and Services
Most subscription and service providers advertise their monthly rates as flat, non-negotiable fees, but there is often wiggle room for savvy shoppers. “A great way to negotiate a discount is to tell the customer service rep that you are considering canceling or using a competing service,” says Karen Hoxmeier, founder of MyBargainBuddy.com.
Hoxmeier notes that she has used this technique repeatedly to maintain the same $1.25/week promo rate for her newspaper subscription that she first scored over six years ago. Recently, she also negotiated for an upgraded cable box with a DVR plus $20 off her monthly rate just by telling her cable company that she was thinking about switching providers.
Internet, cell phone service and even bottled water delivery rates are also prime for haggling, Hoxmeier says. Here are her tips:
- Take a friendly approach. “You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar!”
- Do your research. “Know who competitors are and the promotions they are running.”
- Don’t give up. “If the person you are speaking with refuses to work with you, ask to speak with a supervisor.”
When James Kennedy discovered that his daughter’s first choice for college was also the school that offered her the least financial aid, he could have worried. Instead, he devised a plan that ultimately saved his family around $10,000-$12,000 per year.
“After we reviewed the financial aid package, I called the school and asked how the offer could be increased,” says Kennedy. “They told me there was an appeal process, so [my daughter] wrote a convincing letter outlining another school’s offer and stated that if they could match it, she would attend.”
Kennedy’s experience makes saving thousands of dollars on college costs sound incredibly easy. And it is, he insists. Just follow these rules:
- If the school is your first choice, make sure you give them an enrollment commitment.
- Write a letter that details what you like about the school and why you chose it.
- Be specific about what you want.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what is important.
Watch for more tips and tricks that will have you bargaining your way through holiday shopping and beyond.