Haggling, bargaining, talking down—no matter what you call it, the art of negotiating is a powerful and under-used tool you should always take advantage of to control your spending.
You might think that negotiating is only for business executives working out a million-dollar deal, or only used at open-air markets in faraway villages.
This is definitely not the case.
Here are a few important situations where you can apply negotiating tactics to make sure you stay in control of your finances—and even have a little fun while you’re at it:
1. You Can Keep Bills Low
Vigilantly check your monthly phone, cable and internet bills. It’s quite common for communications companies to raise your monthly rates without even giving you notice. If you see something fishy, pick up the phone and get a hold of someone at the company who has the authority to tell them you want to go back to your original rate. If they say they can’t do it, you can just tell them you’re going to switch over to their competitor. Sometimes, however, it may actually benefit you to switch to the competitor company, who will welcome you, the switch-over subscriber, with open arms and special discounts.
2. You Can Beat the Salesman
Buying a car can be tough going with those smiling, smooth-talking salesmen who will tell you that you just can’t get a better deal than what they’re offering. But don’t fall for this tactic—they’re negotiating too! As any good negotiator will do, walk away when you don’t get the number you’re asking for. If they really truly want your business—which they do—they will come running after you with a better number. Do this a couple of times, and you’re bound to get a price that you can be happy with.
3. You Can Negotiate Sale Prices
If you’re buying something that’s already on sale, there might be a reason. Check to make sure that the item (like a dress or sweater) is not damaged or broken in some way. If it is, and if it’s something minor that you can fix or repair yourself, point it out to the salesperson or manager and ask for a further discount. In shoe stores, for example, you can often tell if someone has worn the shoes and then returned them. Show the wear and tear to the manager and ask for a discount, even if it’s already on sale. You’d be surprised how easily this works and how much leeway the manager actually has. And if the manager really can’t reduce the price any further, he’ll likely give you a freebie instead, like free shoelaces or shoe polish.
Some people think that the idea of negotiating is tacky. But really, it’s just the way of the world—if you don’t ask for what you want, you won’t get it. If you’re feeling a bit nervous to negotiate, bring along a friend for moral support. Be firm, be persistent, and don’t forget—the customer is always right!
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Suchi Rudra is an avid traveler and freelance writer from Texas who covers personal finance, travel, green building, tech, and entrepreneurship. Her work can be found in VICE, The Guardian, Vice, American Way, BBC Travel, Fodor’s, Transitions Abroad, PlanetEye.com, TravelStart.com, Expats.cz, The Writer and India Currents and many other publications.