If You're Not Haggling, You're Wasting Money

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American Pickers on HISTORY® at the Rose Bowl Flea Market
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My anniversary is coming up soon. And I've stalked my wife on Pinterest looking for gift ideas. Pinterest is the perfect place to find gift ideas for us clueless guys.

And I've found the perfect gift. The problem is that it's expensive. Even eBay (EBAY) is pricey for the designer sunglasses that she wants.

Then a brilliant idea hit me: I should ask the seller on eBay for a discount. The online retailing giant opened a proverbial can of worms when it started allowing sellers to add the "or best offer" option to auction listings. Even though this listing didn't allow for haggling from its "buy it now" option, I thought I would try anyway.

So I emailed the seller, asking if the listing price on eBay was the best it could offer. I had nothing to lose. The worst thing it could tell me was no. And the seller had already beaten the best price I could find elsewhere by more than 10 percent.

I was pleasantly surprised when the retailer lowered the price by an additional 15 percent and threw in free shipping. This made me wonder how many other opportunities for discounts I was missing. All it takes is a little creativity and negotiation skills. Here are a few ideas.

Retail Stores Are Tough to Negotiate with for Customers

My friends gave me a crash course in bartering when I traveled to Mexico in college: If a store has air conditioning, the retailer freezes its prices as well.

It's hard to negotiate with retail stores. They have a lot of overhead and often price their wares in order to earn a specific profit margin. But it isn't impossible to negotiate. One of the best ways that you can open the conversation is to simply ask, "Is that the best price you can do?" This is a very powerful question. Retailers may surprise you by offering you a discount simply by asking for it.

Call About Cable, Phone and Internet Service

Cable and satellite TV providers are notorious for offering deep discounts and freebies when you initially sign up. But the price typically skyrockets after the introduction period expires. You can save a bundle on a your package by calling and requesting a discount.

"A quick call to your cable, home phone or Internet provider may uncover a new promotion that will save you big bucks," says Andrea Woroch, consumer and money-saving expert with Kinoli. "Some may provide a discount for going paperless or setting up automatic payments. So ask what's available or threaten to switch providers."

Walking away has been a popular negotiating tactic that consumers have honed while buying cars, but you can use this tactic with a lot of online and brick and mortar retailers as well.

Craigslist Is a Breeding Ground for Discounts

I'm not sure if anyone pays the full listing price for items on Craigslist. Be sure to offer less than the asking price and be prepared to haggle.

I recently bought a road bicycle for a steep discount, saving hundreds of dollars, by bringing cash and simply asking if the seller was open to a lower price. Another great technique is to pay attention to how long an item has been on Craigslist or eBay. This could indicate that a seller is more inclined to negotiate to move an item that has been lingering.

Use Negotiating Tactics Seen on TV

Television shows like "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers" have shown great tips to increase your negotiating prowess.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The first person to recommend a price for an item is at a disadvantage. One of the best techniques is to make the other person start. Of course, this doesn't apply to an item that has a price tag on it.

Make sure that you aim low and leave wiggle room to meet in the middle. Have you noticed how the two parties on these shows eventually gravitate to the middle? There is a fine line between throwing out an insultingly low price and one that is too high, which will leave money on the table that should have been in your pocket.

Don't forget that there are a lot of other costs that comprise a retailer's selling price. Many people on "Pawn Stars" are insulted when they are offered half of the retail value because they forget that the shop has to resale the item as well as pay its employees' salaries and shop overhead.

Retailers may offer you discounts and surprise you simply by asking for them. Are you leaving money on the table by not asking for a better price? You may be surprised when you start practicing your negotiating skills.

Do you routinely ask for a discount? Do you try and score a discount even at brick and mortar stores? What are some of your favorite techniques to get the negotiations going?

Hank Coleman is the publisher of the popular personal finance blog Money Q&A, where he answers readers' tough money questions. Follow him on Twitter @MoneyQandA.


More from Hank Coleman

If You're Not Haggling, You're Wasting Money

This advice applies to adults and kids alike. Plan out your shopping list before you head to the grocery store so you’re not tempted by impulse buys, and let any children along for the ride know that you plan on sticking with that list. Small expenditures add up to big money, so try to avoid giving in to any last-minute requests.

If your children continue to insist that you purchase their requested items, then ask them to bring their own piggy bank money. Remind your children they are only allowed to pick something they can afford. It's good practice for grown-up budgeting.

You might not have 20 hours a week to scour multiple publications for the best deals, but if you focus on searching for online coupons, you'll end up saving just as much. Search online for products with the word "coupon" afterward. For instance, if you're looking for Cascade dish soap, search for "Cascade dish soap coupons."

To make sure that you don't waste money on impulse buys, schedule your shopping around paydays. The day or day after you get paid should be your shopping day. Before you go shopping, make a list and make sure it has everything you'll need until the next shopping day on it. Now make a commitment to yourself that you will make what you're going to purchase last until the next shopping day.
Stocking your freezer with frozen meals can help you save money on lunch, since they cost just about $5 each. It can even be a healthier option because they help you practice portion control. Just make sure you're purchasing meals that have no preservatives, and watch out for sodium levels.
Don't waste your time making a sack lunch every day. Instead, prepare a week's worth of lunches on Sunday, and your body will thank you for the extra 10 to 30 minutes of sleep you'll gain each night. If you cook one big meal on Sunday, make sure it's easy to change up throughout the week. Chicken, rice and vegetables all cook quickly and taste great with different sauces and cheeses.
Most families throw away so much food on a weekly basis. A better idea is to turn your dinner leftovers into a lunchtime feast. Apps like BigOven help you use your leftovers to make yummy, new dishes. All you have to do is enter the ingredients you have, and the app will show you different recipe options for your leftovers. You'll save money using food that would have been thrown out.

If you know you have $400 to spend per month on your food budget, that's roughly $100 a week. Whether you shop once or twice per week or use cash or credit doesn't matter as long as you stay within your spending limits. Just be sure to only spend the amount you allotted per week.

Keep your shopping list in a set location so all members of the household can access it. Write estimated prices of the items you are going to buy next to each item on the checklist. It can serve a dual purpose as a price book you can use to guess how much you will spend.
If you've ordered from the kids menu at a restaurant recently, then you know how big the meals are – they're almost as big as meals for adults, and they can cost up to $10 each. If you have multiple children, an easy way to cut down on this expense is to have them share a meal. Not only does this lower the cost of feeding everyone, but it also cuts down on food waste.
Most stores are open late, and without the distraction of announcements, people and maybe even your kids, you can have your own Zen moment. When you are clearheaded, you're more likely to zone in on what you really need and leave out what you really don't. Plus, it's easier to give the cashier coupons without causing any delays for the people in line behind you.

We are a society consumed by all sorts of apps, but if you want to grocery shop, save money and still be lazy, let Favado, an app created by Savings.com, do the work for you. The app will tell you about items on sale from different stores, and if there is a store coupon or manufacturer coupon, it will also let you know that too. (Of course, you can just use it to scan the weekly ads to keep things simple.) And if you're already glued to your smartphone, it's easy to incorporate into your shopping routine.

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