The number on the sticker isn’t always set in stone.
Score! There’s nothing like the adrenaline rush of negotiating a great deal, whether you’re haggling over the price of a used bike at a yard sale or making a low bid on the fixer-upper of your dreams. But there are deals to be had on goods and services you may have never even dreamed you could bargain for. “Any service that has a variable amount can be negotiated,” says Patricia Seaman, senior director of Smart About Money, a nonprofit that educates consumers about personal finance.
The trick is to be polite but firm, and use the right persuasion tactics, says Jennifer McDermott, consumer advocate for the personal finance website Finder.com. “Consumers should never be afraid to ask for a better deal. You need to talk to the right person and come armed with information, such as how much competitors are charging and whether they’ve had a sale recently,” McDermott says. “The worst that can happen is you’re told no—but if you’re successful, you walk away with a good or service you would have paid for anyway at a much better deal.” Also, McDermott advises you to always be discreet. Don’t ask for a deal in front of other customers, or when there is a long line of people waiting to talk with the salesperson.
Here are seven things you can get a better deal on if you sharpen your haggling skills.
When you’re buying a new set of wheels, think of that price tag as just a starting point—making a deal is not only possible, it’s expected. Just don’t let a charming salesperson throw you off your game or intimidate you. You can start by saying, “Let’s save each other a lot of time, what is your very best, bottom-line deal?” McDermott points out that in addition to cutting the price, you can also ask the dealer to throw in extra accessories, extend the warranty, and give you a better deal on your trade-in.
You can find plenty of deals when you’re setting up your service for the first time, but once it’s time to renew, you may be shocked at how much the price goes up. But you can use that to your advantage. “Once you sign up for a service, your provider will do anything to keep you as a customer,” says McDermott. “If you say that you are going to switch to a different service provider, they will try their best to meet or beat that price, or to bundle for a better package.”
Depending on how in-demand your contractor is, he or she may be willing to cut a deal, says McDermott. “These businesses run on word of mouth. If you’re dealing with a successful company with plenty of business, they’re quoting you a price that will make it worth their time to do the job, and there’s probably not much room to negotiate,” she says. “But if a company is fairly new, they should be willing to give you a a better deal to create some buzz. Just make sure you’re getting quality work!”
Weddings, Bar-Mitzvahs, and Other Catered Events
“Restaurants, catering halls, and deejays have to cover their operating costs so they break even, but after that, their rates are quite flexible,” says McDermott. This is especially true if you’re booking on an off-night or during a month when they might otherwise be slow or empty. Come in with a budget in mind, but be vague about it, McDermott advises, and when the sales manager quotes you a price, say, “Honestly, we would love to have the event here, but that’s way out of my budget. Can you do a little better?”
Refurbished or Opened Items
While you may know that any used item you spy on Craigslist is ripe for negotiating, you may not realize that you can also make a deal on refurbished computers and appliances and display items at big box stores. “Larger chains like Best Buy are wiling to negotiate the price of returned goods or opened boxes,” says Daniel Duty, CEO of the negotiations firm Conlego.
If you keep in mind that all the gyms in your town are competing for your dollars—and it doesn’t actually cost them anything to have one more body on an elliptical—you can negotiate a great deal. “They know if you walk out that door without signing up, you’re probably not coming back, and they desperately want you to sign,” says McDermott. “The prices are quite fluid. There is always a corporate discount they can apply or a sale they can extend. And you can also negotiate about adding extra months, getting free trainer sessions, or paying month-to-month rather than annually.”
Credit Card Rates
If you play your (credit) cards right, you may never have to pay that annual fee that companies sneak onto your bill after the first year. “If you have good credit and are a loyal customer, you can always ask the card company to lower your interest rate and reduce the annual fee or take it off altogether,” says McDermott.