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What’s sweeter than a new sofa, a new appliance, or a long-awaited vacation? Scoring each, with cash left to spare, using the power of negotiation.
“Negotiating? Asking for discounts?” You think to yourself. “Maybe financial pros can do it, but I never could!” I feel you, the entire subject of negotiation used to make my knees weak, too. Then I became a stay-at-home mom, and felt silly throwing away 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 negotiating win, my confidence grew. This year, I scored major discounts on carpeting, stainless-steel appliances, a minivan, even our new home, When I added up total savings, my knees nearly buckled: I saved enough to cover our family’s food bill for two years.
Why should you take the time to wrangle a better deal? 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 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 and funding your kids’ college.”
So keep these tactics in mind, 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 okay to feel scared, but don’t let that feeling stop you. “Remember,” says Kay, “this is something you are doing to improve your family’s bottom line.”
Do Your Homework
Pave the way for successful shopping with advance preparation. The product information available online makes it a snap to find 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.
Financial author Dave Ramsey counsels bargain hunters to “use the power of cash.” I’ve had sales managers waive sales tax or throw in additional discounts after I tell them, truthfully, that the cash in my hand is all I can spend. So flash a little cash, and watch sellers scramble.
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.
Today’s smartphones and laptops put a world of portable purchasing power at your fingertips, and this can be a valuable asset in the negotiating process. I recently scored my dream minivan at a sizable discount by pulling up prices of comparable cars at neighboring dealerships on my laptop, and showing them to the sales manager.
Always remember you can walk away, and find another deal. There are legions of stores eager for your business and 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.
Malia Jacobson is a nationally published journalist and mom of three.
Malia Jacobson, MBA