It might seem like an exclusive perk of the brazen or the well-connected, but the truth is, anyone has a shot at a discount. Below, pro strategies on how to go for it—without coming off as a total cheapskate.

By Laura Schocker and Mia Taylor
Updated April 27, 2021
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There's no shame in asking for a discount before spending your hard-earned money on everything from furniture and clothes to recurring household bills. Especially now, as many households are struggling to recover from job or income losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, every penny counts. Nearly everything is open to negotiation as long as you do your research, come to the table well-informed, and know the right way to ask. Here are some expert tips for politely asking for a discount.

Furniture

"Just because a price tag displays a certain number doesn't mean it's final," says Nicole Lapin, a financial expert and the author of Rich Bitch. You can research online prices and ask if a store will match that—or try for a discounted floor sample.

What to do: Strike up a conversation with a friendly salesperson, and lead with a compliment: "I love your store and really want to buy this piece. Is this the best price you can give me today? What if I take a floor model off your hands?"

Good to know: Appliance stores will often discount floor samples.

Clothing

There could be specials running that you know nothing about—and in all likelihood, charm will get you everywhere.

What to do: Ask at the register if the store has any coupons or deals running that you can take advantage of, suggests Lapin. If you left a coupon at home, just say so. Often the store will honor it anyway.

Good to know: If you're trying for a discount on a damaged item, stay positive: "I like this top, but it looks stretched out. I shop here all the time. Is it possible to get a discount?"

Cable Bill

Many cable companies offer introductory rates for new customers, but over time your bill can skyrocket, says Laura Adams, a personal finance expert and the author of Money Girl's Smart Moves to Grow Rich. It's always a good idea to call and ask for a lower rate. The company may comply, even if you've had the service for a while. There also may be new specials or discounts available that the company can offer you to help reduce your rate.

What to do: Be direct. "I need to cut expenses, and I'm not happy with what I'm paying for my cable service. Do you have any promotions right now?" If you don't make any headway, tell the customer service rep that you're a loyal customer but your friend has a better plan with another company. Still no luck? Call back and try again with someone else.

Good to know: Similar strategies may work for your cell phone bill and credit card interest rate.

Medical Bills

Some doctors and hospitals will negotiate. "A little research is a valuable weapon," says Lapin.

What to do: Request an itemized bill, and make sure there aren't any errors. Then go to fairhealthconsumer.org (a health-cost resource similar to the Kelley Blue Book for car prices) and look at typical costs for treatments in your area. Next, call your doctor and ask for a rate reduction. If you're in a particularly bad situation, you can claim financial hardship.

Good to know: "You can't stick your head in the sand. You have to act within 90 days," says Lapin. "Once a bill goes into collection, it's much harder to negotiate."