Some people like to haggle or bargain. Some people love to use coupons. But some feel downright uncomfortable asking for discounts. I understand that it can make you feel weird or cheap, but there’s nothing wrong with asking. The worst that can happen is that you get turned down and maybe they think you are broke or cheap…and that’s probably true. Nothing to be ashamed of. Let’s all have an acceptance moment.
I am broke and cheap.
There I said it.
Now that that’s over. Let’s get down to the business of asking for discounts. If you can push past that icky cheapskate feeling, you can actually get a discount and save some money. It can actually cost you not to ask. Here’s 6 tips to get you over your bargaining fears.
1. Remember, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. No, I know you don’t want to catch flies. It’s a figure of speech. If you are nice to people they are more likely to want to help you. Believe me, threatening the repair man won’t make him want to cut you a bargain. Turn on the charm and make them want to help you.
2. They have competition and they want to keep your business. The economy is based on buyers and sellers, and often the buyer is at an advantage and has a choice of companies with which to do business. Remembering this and reminding the company that their competition offers a comparable product for a lower price, will often make the company try to offer you a discount to keep your business. In an area where there are multiple cable TV providers, I have successfully called my cable company and mentioned the promotion that their competitor was offering then asked for a discount. I have been granted such a deal more than once.
3. Sob story. I’m not saying lie through your teeth, but if you are broke, let them know. If you are afraid you will have to cancel your cell phone or cable TV service because your husband lost his job or you have big medical bills, tell them. Sometimes the customer service rep will take pity on you and cut you a deal. Thank them profusely.
4. Remind them how great a customer you are. If you always pay your bill on time, have had your account at that bank for ages, you’ve had that cell phone plan for a decade, remind the company. This especially works well when you need a late charge revered or some other kind of fee or penalty. I recently forgot to pay my credit card bill and remembered the day after it was due. So I called up my card company and asked them how I could get this late fee reversed. I pointed out that I had never had a late fee and always paid my bill on time, and I would be able to pay my bill that day. They reversed the charge right away.
5. Milk your connections. Are you a student? Military service member? A teacher? A government employee? Have State Farm insurance? Ask for the discount. We all know that movie theaters offer student and military discounts, but did you know that many clothing stores offer teacher or student discounts (like Ann Taylor)? When you are looking to rent a place, ask the rental office if they offer discounts for military or government employees, or for employees of large employers in the city. Sometimes they knock off part of the security deposit amount or waive the application fee. Recently, I went to Safelite to get a crack in my windshield replaced and while the cost was below my insurance deductible and not worth the claim, they cut me a discount because I had State Farm insurance. Speaking of auto insurance, make sure you get all your discounts: safe driver, good student, multi car, multi policy. Rack up those discounts.
6. Offer 60%. When you are in an independently owned store, thrift shop, yard sale, or any other place where haggling is appropriate or expected, pick a price you are actually willing to pay for the item you want. Then start haggling but don’t go over the price you set for yourself. Throw out a starting price but don’t lowball too much, that can be disrespectful. Instead pick a price that you think is fair for the item. Often 60% of asking price is a good place to start. For example, if you see a bookshelf at a yard sale priced at $30, offer $20. They may not take it but it offers you a good starting point, then you can just move up from there. Of course, haggling all depends on the actual value of the item and how much you want it. Sometimes it’s best to start at 70% of the asking price, depending on the item and how fairly it’s prices. But even if you save a couple bucks, you still got your deal.
See, now that wasn’t that hard now was it? Think of all the money you will save! Embrace that inner cheapskate, accept the fact that you are broke, and ask for a discount. It hurts more to overpay and rationalize going over your budget than to ask for a deal you need.