I’ve been haggling for good deals ever since I was old enough to spend my own money. I’m not sure why that is… (Mom?!) but for whatever reason it always seemed like a good idea to me.
I was interviewed on Virgin by Buzz Bishop at one point about my haggling… and I’ve had several people ask me over Twitter and e-mail lately if I could share some of my ideas on haggling. Soooo here we go. I’m no professional haggler or negotiator, but here are a couple tips I’ve found that really work.
Rule #1: Create a win-win situation. Haggling is really just another word for negotiating. In negotiations, the goal is not to get what you want and screw the other person over… it’s to create a win-win situation where both parties are happy with the end result. The same is true for haggling.
Rule #2: Don’t be embarrassed. Negotiating isn’t about being rude or pushy… but it does require you to be confident. It also doesn’t mean you are “cheap” or stingy… it just means you are looking for the best possible price.
Rule #3: 99% of the time you can get a better price. Yes, there a few cases where haggling isn’t appropriate (e.g. at a charity sale or when buying from a friend), but 99% of the time you really can negotiate a deal. Yes, even in department stores. I’ve gotten discounts at Aritzia, Future Shop, Rogers…
Rule #4: Know when to call it a day. Sometimes, you will have to walk away from a deal. That’s okay, there will be others. And sometimes, you won’t get the price you were looking for, but it’ll be good enough of an offer to accept. That’s okay!
Rule #5: Give a reason. Sometimes it helps to give a reason why you are looking for a discount. Don’t lie, be honest. Here are some examples: “It would really help a lot if you could discount this item for me because…” a) You have student loans b) Credit card debt c) Changing jobs d) Having a tough time financially e) Have a mortgage f) Have kids g) Your rent cheque just came out etc etc… the list goes on. Don’t bring this up if you aren’t in a bad situation, but sometimes it can help to give a reason for someone to help you.
Rule #6: Have fun! Don’t take yourself too seriously. If you look sad and worn down, a seller is less likely to offer you a good deal because they feel like they have the upper hand. Be nice, friendly and happy… people would rather deal with a friend than a foe!
In the last 2 months, I’ve saved over $3,000 just from haggling. Let me share some tips with you from specific situations.
When buying a new cellphone, do your research on what the other wireless carriers are offering. Be prepared to tell the salesperson you’ve found better deals elsewhere and are hoping they can beat it. Start negotiating on each of the bullet points. Can they give you a student plan? Can they give you an early evening start time? Can they take away the system access fee? Can they throw in a voicemail/text/etc package for you? Can they take off $50 from the phone price? Can they throw anything in for free?
Using this strategy I got a student plan, early 5 pm start, no system access fee, discounted voicemail package, and $75 off my phone price… plus a free memory card and case at Rogers.
I always check Craigslist to see if there is anything for sale there when I’m looking to buy something new. I’ve gotten some great deals on Craigslist. However, negotiating on Craigslist is pretty tricky! Here are some tips.
- Don’t dress up. If you dress casual and leave the bling at home, sellers will be more likely to give you a good deal.
- Know the actual retail sales price for an item before going. Sellers will often say they bought something for 2 or 3 times what they actually paid for it.
- I don’t recommend flirting. Sellers will see right through you, and plus you don’t want to lower yourself to that, right?
- Don’t say anything about a lower price in your initial email or phone call. Sellers will hold out and won’t bother meeting with you.
- Pay with cash.
- When you show up, make sure your cash is pre-counted in your pocket for what you want to offer. Have the extra cash in the other pocket if you need it later. Sellers won’t accept a lower price if they see you counting out your cash in front of them. They also don’t want to give you change if they gave you a good deal.
- Adjust your price for the item’s value. For furniture and electronics, you can ask for a significant discount, $50-500 or so. For smaller items like clothes or decor, you can usually only haggle $5-20 or so.
- Bid low, but not so low that it’s a bad deal. For example, on a $200 end table, say something like (but DON’T LIE, come up with your real reasons) “So I was wondering if you’d be willing to accept $100 for this… I will take it off your hands right now, plus it would REALLY help me out a lot because I’m still paying off my student loans… it would really mean a lot to me.”
- Get used to counter offers and how to respond. If the seller says, “Well how about $150?” then they are in a negotiating mood and you can probably get a great deal… say, “I’m sorry but that is still out of my budget, can you do $125?”. They are likely to accept. If they say, “I can’t budge on this at all, it’s great quality etc etc”… then they are not likely to negotiate much. You may have to walk away. A last ditch effort would be to say, “I definitely understand. Can you even help a little bit? Maybe just $20 off?”… they are likely to accept.
Using this strategy I’ve saved $500 on a bed frame, $200 on end tables, over $1000 on patio furniture, and hundreds more on electronics, cookware, etc. Craigslist is awesome.
Independent stores are the best, because often the salespeople are the owners and they can actually make a decision on if they can give you a price decrease or not. However, you can even get a great discount at a chain retail clothing store. First of all, pick your target. This should almost always be the manager. Decide what you want… a couple different options are 2 for 1 on an item, no GST, a 15% discount, etc. Personally I like the no tax option, it almost always works at retail stores. If possible, wait till the manager is at the sales counter, preferably when there are no other customers around. Then go up to them and say, “This is a really great ______, but it’s so far out of my budget. Is there anything you can do on the price?”. Let them answer, they may offer a discount. If not, then say, “Could you at least leave off the tax for me? It would make a huge difference”… they will almost always accept.
Using this strategy I’ve gotten 50% off on things at Holt Renfrew, no tax at Aritzia, 2 for 1 deals at indepedent clothing stores etc… always a few hundred dollars savings. Well worth it!
Of course this works best at independent stores, but I’ve had some good success at Chapters too. Try and find a book that is a little bit scruffed up or folded over (DO NOT VANDALIZE THE PRODUCT YOURSELF). The best situation is if it is the last book left. But even if not, this still works. Find the manager (preferably no other customers around), and ask if they can give you a discount since the book is damaged. They will almost always accept.
Using this strategy I’ve gotten $50 off a book at Chapters, and $10-15 dollars off books at Book Warehouse and used book stores.
Sporting Goods, Electronics etc
This is one of my favourite categories to haggle with. Computer, snowboards, golf clubs… all have extremely high mark up. My strategy here is to pick a salesperson who doesn’t look very busy. Go up to them and say, “I really want to buy something today, but I want to walk out of here with a good deal, can you help me?”. This indicates that you are a serious buyer (commission sales people hate wasting time), and that you want a good deal. Let them show you different products. Hopefully you find the one you want. Don’t seem overly into the product, but say, “How much for this one?”. Appear displeased when they tell you the price. Say, “I think this is along the lines of what I was looking for, but is there anything you can do on the price?”. If they offer you a discount, either accept or ask for something lower. If they say they can’t, ask if they can speak to their manager. Give the same story to the manager, make sure you give an honest reason, e.g. student loans or hard financial time. Make sure you get a discounted price. Only after you are given a better price, then say, “Yes, that definitely helps. Thank you so much for the discount. Is there anything you could throw in? I’m having a really hard time because this product is still over my budget even with the discount”. Then ask for add-ins… perhaps an extra mouse, maybe free snowboard goggles, a box of golf balls etc. It really works.
Using this strategy I’ve gotten 50% off a snowboard, a free router and mouse with a discounted laptop purchase, $300 worth of golf extras (extra club, balls, hat, and glove) with a discounted driver etc… this is really your area to shine. Hardgoods are very easy to haggle with!
I’ve only had experience with this once, so I’m sure there are way more knowledgeable people online that have tips for this, but here are mine. First of all, do your research. Find out what the base price (what the dealership paid for it) is for the car and what the margin is the dealer is making. You can find this information online. Again, pick your mark. Pick someone who isn’t busy. Indicate your commitment: “I want to walk out of here with a car today, so can you help give me your absolutely best deal?”. The salesperson will be super excited that they get to make a commission today. Then when you find the one you want, say “I know the base price for the car is $____. But I want both of us to get a great deal out of this. Can you give it to me for $_____?” Indicate maybe $3-5 grand over the base price. The salesperson will appreciate a quick sale. However, you can only do this if you are ready to buy, so make sure you are. Also make sure you haggle on the warranty and the maintenance etc.
Using this strategy I saved $13,000 on a car. I’ve since sold the car, but it was definitely my best haggle to date
I hope you enjoyed this guide. I’m sure there is a lot more I could add to this, but my lunch hour is nearly over.
Please share your haggling stories below! Have any questions? Please ask! I’d be happy to share a strategy for a particular situation.