Bargain Like A Pro

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Get It For Less By Bargaining Like A ProWhat’s sweeter than a new sofa, more fun than a new set of wheels, and more rewarding than a long-awaited vacation? Scoring these items with cash left to spare, using the power of negotiation.

“Yikes!” I can hear you think. “Negotiating? Asking for discounts? Maybe financial pros can do it, but I never could!” This knee-jerk reaction to bargaining is all too familiar to me, because the entire subject of negotiation used to make my knees weak. Then I became a stay-at-home mom, and I felt silly throwing away my family’s hard-earned cash on retail prices.

So I gave myself a few pep talks and started small, asking for discounts on Craigslist purchases and car repair bills. With each small negotiating win, my confidence grew. This year, I scored major discounts on nearly everything I bought, including a new home, carpeting, a minivan, and stainless-steel appliances. When I added up the total savings, my knees nearly buckled: I saved enough to cover our family’s food bill for two years. Now, that really makes me swoon.

Why should you take the time to wrangle a better deal on that new bike or dishwasher? Because a lot is at stake, says Ellie Kay, author of “The 60-minute Financial Workout.” In today’s economy, parents with growing kids and bills to match can’t afford to throw money away. “Paying less for purchases gives you more money to do great things like paying down credit card debt, putting money aside for retirement, and funding your kids’ college,” she says.

According to Dave Ramsey, author of “The Total Money Makeover,” confident negotiators can save on everything—even pizza delivery! From car repairs to carpeting, vet bills to vacations, you can buy what you need and save thousands in the process. Keep these tactics in your back pocket, and you’ll never be far from your next great deal.

Mind Over Matter

First, get over the misplaced fear of looking or feeling foolish. People all over the world use negotiating tactics every day without a second thought. It’s OK to feel scared, says Kay, but don’t let that feeling stop you.

“Do it scared,” she says. “It may seem awkward at first, but it’s usually just the fear of the unknown. Remember, this is something you are doing to improve your family’s bottom line.”

Do Your Homework

Pave the way for successful shopping with some advance preparation. The plethora of product information available online makes it a snap to find the essential facts about the product you’re after. Come prepared to bargain with a basic idea of what you need and want, including “must-have” and “nice-to-have” features, and exactly how much you can spend.

Flash Cash

Ramsey counsels bargain hunters to “use the power of cash.” The sight of crisp dollar bills triggers an emotional response that can be a powerful negotiating tool, he notes. Personally, I have gotten sales managers to waive sales tax or throw in additional discounts by telling them, truthfully, that the cash in my hand is all I can spend on the purchase, including tax, delivery, and other fees. So flash a little cash, and watch sellers scramble to get their hands on it.

Say the Magic Words

You’ve done your homework, armed yourself with cash, and walked into the store. Now what? Start the negotiating process with five simple words, “Is that your best price?” This phrase works in nearly every situation by informing the seller that you’re looking for a deal, and putting the ball into their court.

Technology is Your Friend

Today’s smartphones, laptops, and tablets put a world of portable purchasing power at your fingertips, and your Internet-connected device can be a valuable asset in the negotiating process. I recently scored my dream minivan at a sizable discount (one that prompted the salesman to quip that I must have done some praying that day) by pulling up prices of comparable cars at neighboring dealerships on my laptop, and showing them to the sales manager.

Walk-Away Power

Always remember that you have the power to put your cash back in your pocket, walk away, and search out another deal. There are legions of stores and salespeople eager for your business and scores of spectacular bargains waiting to be discovered, so don’t settle for anything less. Keep a light, pleasant attitude, and be prepared to politely thank the salesperson for their time if the negotiation isn’t fruitful.

Negotiate with Sincerity

Above all, maintain your integrity throughout the negotiating process. Bargaining is a two-way street, so tell the truth and be ready to hold up your end of the bargain. Garnering pity with sob stories about your bleak finances won’t help you score a discount—your negotiating prowess will. So sharpen those skills and be prepared to wield them with authority, integrity, and pride. Your pocketbook, and your family, will thank you.

Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer and mom of two. She’s currently on the hunt for her next great deal.

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