How Haggling Is Saving Me Hundreds of Dollars a Year

haggling saves money

Haggling for a better price can be intimidating. You don’t want to look like a cheapskate or feel rejected when a salesperson says no to your request for a deal. Perhaps that’s why less than half of shoppers surveyed by Consumer Reports said they tried to negotiate a lower price on everyday goods and services. But those who do try to haggle are typically rewarded; the survey also found that 89 percent of shoppers who negotiated did save money at least once.

I don’t need survey statistics, though, to tell me that haggling pays off because it’s a technique I use to save more than $1,000 a year.

Yes, it can feel awkward asking for a lower price. But, it feels great to get a deal. So if you tend to shy away from haggling, here’s what I’ve learned about how to do it successfully.

I Save More Than $100 a Year by Asking for Discounts

If the prospect of haggling intimidates you, you can still score discounts without negotiating back and forth. Simply ask merchants or service providers whether they have any coupons, special deals or ways to save. I’ve done this when booking hotel rooms and activities for family vacations, when shopping at retail stores and even when dining at restaurants.

Recently, I was shopping in a local boutique and mentioned to the salesperson that I wished the item I wanted was on sale. She told me I could get a 20 percent discount simply by going online and voting for the store in a “best of” competition run by the local newspaper. I pulled out my phone, voted and got my discount that saved me about $40 — all because I was willing to ask if there was a way to save.

There are plenty of mobile apps such as Coupon Sherpa and RetailMeNot that can help you find retailers’ coupons on the go. But you should still ask at stores — including supermarkets — if they have any promotions or opportunities to save. In fact, you could ask this when you make any purchase, sign up for a service or even enroll your kids in activities because you might find out about discounts that aren’t widely publicized.

By taking this step, you’ll start building your confidence to actually haggle over any price, anywhere.

I Cut $35 Off My Monthly Cable Bill by Negotiating Over the Phone

You can further boost your confidence about negotiating by doing it over the phone so you can avoid looking someone in the eye and feeling awkward about asking for a deal. One of the best opportunities to do this is when the rate on your wireless phone service, cable TV or internet increases, or when you’re signing up for a new service.

I no longer have cable TV, but when I did, I frequently negotiated with my provider. For example, when the introductory rate on my cable TV, internet and phone package expired and my monthly bill shot up, I called the cable company.

I used an open-ended question, “What can I do to lower my rate?” rather than a yes-or-no question such as, “Can you lower my rate?” I was told I could re-bundle my package — basically, sign up for a new introductory offer — for a one-time $25 fee and cut my monthly bill by $35.

My husband also cut our monthly wireless phone bill by taking the time to talk to a customer service representative. Spending about five minutes on the phone to find out how we could get a better deal netted us $25 in monthly savings, equal to $300 a year.

I Knocked $50 Off the Price of a Rug by Pointing Out Flaws

There are a variety of ways you can justify a better deal when haggling. For example, you could point out that you’re a loyal customer and don’t want to take your business elsewhere, but the price you’re being offered doesn’t fit within your budget. Or, you could look for flaws in an item that might make it harder to sell at full price.

When shopping for an area rug, my husband and I saw one that had been marked down slightly because it was a floor sample. But we pointed out that it showed signs of wear and tear and got another $50 knocked off the price.

I Saved $4,000 on a Car by Doing My Research

One of the best ways to successfully haggle is to research the price of an item or service before starting negotiations. Arming yourself with pricing information is especially important when negotiating a deal on a big-ticket item, such as a car. Resources such as KBB.com, Edmunds.com and TrueCar.com can help you find a vehicle’s market value so you don’t pay the sticker price, otherwise known as the manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP).

I recently bought a car and used these online resources to determine the price I was willing to pay. Before entering the dealership, I also checked its competitors’ prices on the car I wanted so I could mention them during negotiations — and so I could let the salesperson know I was looking elsewhere. The car salesman said it was clear I had done my research, and it didn’t take too long to get him to come down about $4,000 from the MSRP to the price I wanted to pay.

Even when we’re not buying items as expensive as a car, my husband and I check competitors’ prices using mobile apps such as RedLaser and ShopSavvy. If another retailer is offering the product we want for less, we ask a salesperson at the store where we’re shopping whether the price can be matched. This is a relatively easy way to start negotiating — especially because several retailers do have price-matching policies.

I Slashed $120 Off My Monthly Mortgage Because I Haggled

You have more leverage if a seller is under pressure to make a sale, such as meeting a quota at the end of the month, clearing out seasonal inventory to make room for the next season’s products or unloading perishable items that have hit their sell-by date.

When my husband and I were contemplating buying our current home, I asked the real estate agent how long the house had been on the market and why the owners were selling. It turned out the house had been on the market for months, and the owners were separating. Knowing they were eager to sell — and having done our research to find the property tax valuation and similar properties’ asking prices — we haggled the price down by $35,000.

If we had paid the asking price, our monthly mortgage payment would have been about $120 more a month. That’s $1,440 a year I’m saving because my husband and I successfully negotiated down the price of our house.

Expert Tricks on How to Negotiate

Here are some other ways I successfully negotiated lower prices. Use these four strategies to haggle and save money.

1. Be Friendly, Not Demanding

You’ve probably heard the saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” This is especially true when you’re trying to get someone to give you a deal.

I’ve found that people are more likely to be nice to you if you’re nice to them. So avoid demanding anything. Instead, politely ask for what you want — and smile while you do it.

2. Use a Tag-Team Approach

My husband and I use a good cop-bad cop sort of approach when we’re buying something together and trying to negotiate the price.

I approach a salesperson, discuss the price, then turn to my husband, who typically shakes his heads and says something like, “No, that’s not really what we’re looking for” or “Let’s keep looking.” Often, the salesperson will sense my desire to buy — and my husband’s reluctance — and will start negotiating.

3. Create an Awkward Silence … or Stall

One of my journalism professors in college taught me to let silences occur during interviews because people will start talking to fill the void. This works during negotiations, too.

If you stare silently — as if you’re deeply thinking about the price — the seller might start feeling uncomfortable and will lower the price to make the sale.

4. Be Willing to Walk Away

You don’t want to offer a price that’s so low that sellers can’t make a profit, or at least cover their costs. But you need to know how much you’re willing to pay before you start negotiating.

If the seller isn’t willing to come down to that price, don’t get angry. Express regret that you couldn’t reach an agreement, and be willing to walk away. You might find that the seller will go a little lower if you start walking toward the door.

However, if the seller doesn’t budge, don’t cave. Simply head to another store, and start the negotiation process again.