A Financial Education Event

Polite Bargaining – 8 Ways to Negotiate on Everything


My longtime friend, Edith and I found heaven on earth this past weekend and we were determined to milk it for all it was worth. Milk chocolate that is! We took a day trip to Chocolate World in Hershey, PA from her new house in Mechanicsburg and we racked up the discounts all day. There was a Groupon for four special events: a chocolate tasting, the 4D chocolate experience, a trolley ride and build your own candy bar. We saved 30% on those bundled tickets.

Chocoholics forever 

When we had lunch and bought tons of candy to take to our chocoholic friends and family, we got a military discount. When we left, we were astonished to realize that our 3 hours of free parking had grown to $45 for the 6 hours we were there! When we went to pay, Edith (who has 20+ years of military service) asked for a veteran’s discount and we breezed through the exit with a 100% parking discount. We were on a sugar high and a savings high as well! 

My grandma Laudeman used to quote a Bible verse that has stuck with me throughout my whole life: “you have not because you ask not.”

Even though I was a shy person growing up, I was never shy about parting with less of my hard-earned money if there was a chance I could save some bucks.

So, how do you bargain in every day matters without embarrassing yourself or your family? Consumer Reports says that 89% of those who regularly ask for discounts get a “yes” on that discount at least once. Those are good odds.

Here are 8 tried and true ways that can help you become a polite negotiator.  

Everything Is Fair Game – Almost everything in retail goes on sale at some point, so why not try to create your own sale? A retailer may not want to give the sale to everyone, but they may give you a discount if they are still making a profit. Ask the manager if the item has recently been on sale, if it is going on sale soon or if they can sell it at a discount. One college student in Chicago routinely asks for the “good guy discount” because he’s a good guy and they’ll be a good guy if they give him a discount. If you’re military, use the Scout app to find those discounts. Don’t forget the classic money saver, RetailMeNot for additional savings.

Find Something Wrong – A makeup smudge, a missing button or a slight hole along a seam that is easily repaired are all good reasons for a big discount. Show the sales clerk or manager the damaged area and ask for a 30% discount, you can settle for less, but ask for more since it can’t be sold as brand new.

Do Your Research – Comparison shop online using apps like Amazon which has a barcode scanner that you can use when you’re in a store to immediately find the item on Amazon and check its price. Just choose the camera icon next to the search bar and hold it over a barcode. You can do the same thing with Walmart Savings Catcher, which is a part of their regular app. Show the manager the comparison price and ask if they will match it. Check out Yelp to also get check in discounts and review the vendor.

Use Your Expertise – If you are a geek at an electronics store or at a gaming outlet, talk with the sales person and capitalize on your mutual passion for the products. But don’t be a bore and inundate them with a one-way monologue. Instead, build a rapport with the sales person by asking them questions and letting them be the expert they are. You’ll come across as a qualified buyer who is worthy of a discounted price.

Don’t Be Intimidated by Professionals with Titles – Just because someone is an MD, CPA, or a lawyer doesn’t mean you can’t get a discount. One lady was told her eye surgery was going to be 10K and she didn’t have insurance coverage for the procedure. She told the doctor that it was too much and “could he work with her to get it for less?” He told her that besides the big city practice he had (where she saw him) he also had a smaller office in a neighboring smaller city. If she went to that smaller office, he would reduced his fee to $1000, use the smaller clinic that charged a lot less than the hospital surgery room and they got a discounted rate on the anesthesiologist as well. The new price on the surgery? $2800

Buy Everything in Bulk—Even Services! It’s hard for most vendors to turn down cold, hard, cash. I have learned to negotiate paying for services in advance to save even more. These would be known vendors you work with frequently and trust. At my mail and more store where I have a PO Box, I paid for a year and asked for a deal I saw elsewhere where they offered 2 months for free by paying the full year—he gave it to me in seconds. For haircuts, spa treatments, and massage treatments, I’ll prepay anywhere from 5 to 10 services at a 30% discount. Then we keep up with services as we go along, counting down to the next bulk payment. This works especially well for services you know you will get regularly.

Get Discounts on Existing Service by Mentioning the C Word – Take those sale circulars you get in the mail, are hanging on your door, or you find in the paper and call your existing provider to renegotiate your current service. Whether you are getting cable service, cell phone service, entomology or house cleaning services. Call your current provider, tell them you want to “cancel” or talk to the cancellations department. You’ll likely be transferred to a department that has more authority to offer you freebies to keep your business. If you mention the introductory pricing from one of their competitors, you might not get that exact price, but you could use it as leverage to get deeper discounts on your current service.

Be Willing to Walk Away- Whether you are in a department store or a Turkish bazaar, decide ahead of time what your “comfortable” price is for the goods or service you are negotiating. Decide this ahead of time so you won’t get caught up in the moment. My favorite words, when discussing prices, are: “I don’t feel good about that price.” Then the seller usually tries to find out what price I would feel good about. I’ve often been stopped while walking away with a lower price that will seal the deal. And if I’m not followed out with the promise of a bargain? That’s OK, too, I can feel good about walking away if I don’t get the price that floats my boat!   


I have a friend who is a newly single mom and her part time job is making phone calls to get discounts on existing payments she must make. We figured she is earning about $50/ per hour for her time investment. She has talked to utility providers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and the city to get free items such as light bulbs, a/c filters, a refrigerator, a swamp cooler (also installed free), low moisture landscaping and much more. She’s a firm believer in “you have not because you ask not.”

What’s your bargaining story? Let me hear from you!

Bargaining 101

If you save money by paying less on consumer items, you could “earn” anywhere from $100 to $10,000 a year. It’s just a matter of learning how to negotiate on everything from shoes to salaries. The key to asking is to learn how to bargain without embarrassing yourself, your friends or your family. In this summer season of garage sales and flea markets, it’s a good time to hone those bargaining skills. But don’t just use those talents when buying, use them to get a better salary at work on even in the mall.  Here are a few successful strategies to try:
· Compare –Furniture, phone plans, electronics, jewelry and appliances are all highly negotiable. Find your desired item on a search robot such as Froogle.com, MySimon.com, NexTag.com and eBay.com or in sale circulars from the Sunday paper. Then print out the price, take it into your store and ask them to match it. Some stores, such as Wal-mart, will match competitor’s ads (even on food items).
· Compensate – If the salesman cannot match the price, then ask for other freebies such as complimentary delivery, free accessories, or an extended warranty.
· Continue – If the salesman grants extra perks, don’t stop there. After you’ve secured these, ask for the manager and ask her to match the competitor’s price.
· Counter – If I don’t feel good about a price or an offer, I’ve learned to simply say, “I don’t feel good about that.” Or, “I just don’t feel comfortable with that number.” Oftentimes, they’ll ask, “What number would you feel good about?” It never hurts to counter a price, if you ask for 20% off and they offer 10%, then counter with 15%. When it comes to salary negotiations, you shouldn’t accept the first offer. Most salaried professionals ask for 10% to 12% more than what they’re offered, and often settle for 7% to 8% more. If you did this with your first salary, it could add up to $500,000 by the time you are 60 years old!
· Consideration – Don’t limit the odds of success by asking for too much. The seller has to make a profit. Small appliances are usually marked up 30%, while larger ones such as washing machines are marginalized by only 15%. However, most large furniture items and jewelry are increased by a whopping 100%!
· Communication – Learn to say: “Is this your best price?” “Was this recently on sale and can I have the sale price?” “Do you think you could ask your manager, I’ll be happy to wait,” “Hmmm, this item is a little damaged (makeup on the collar, an already opened box, a ding or scratch) could it be marked down?” and last but not least, “Thank you, I’ll be back!”
Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

Spring Cleaning – Garage Sale Success

I’m going indoor skydiving next week with a coupon that I bought from Groupon for only $35. I’ll get two flights, a DVD and bragging rights. I look at life as an adventure—especially when it comes to stretching my dollars and finding creative ways to make and spend money. Sometimes we need to have the ultimate adventure—a garage sale! Paying a dime on the dollar for a product still in its original box is a not only a thrill—it’s eco friendly because no new resources are made to create that product. Not only do garage sales simplify your life by helping you de-clutter, but they also provide a way to keep more change in your pocket and teach your kids the value of a buck.
Here are my top ten tips to host a successful garage sale. If you follow them carefully, you’ll find yourself flying high—without the bungee cord!

 Collect – Throughout the month, throw stuff in a big box marked, “Garage Sale.” Not only will you relieve clutter, you’ll soon have enough diverse items to host a sale. Of course, you may have your husband keep taking things out of that box.

 Location –It’s great to buddy up with a friend whose house has a better location than yours, in order to catch the attention of drive-by traffic. Or, ask a neighbor (or two) on your block to host their own sales—you could get three times the garage sale traffic with combined sales.

 Advertise— When you create garage sale signs for the neighborhood, use brightly colored poster board and a good contrasting color. Keep the lettering brief and legible and tape some balloons on it. Go in with your neighbors on a small ad in your local paper, it will really help bring people to your sale.

 Pricing – If you put a price your product, you are more likely to sell it. Most people don’t want to keep asking, “How much for this?” Even with the item marked, there will be some who will barter with you on the price—but that’s to be expected. Begin pricing items weeks before the sale, placing them in a “finished” pile in your garage.

 Cash – Have at least $20 in coins, 50 one-dollar bills and 6 five dollar bills. Keep your money box in a safe location and never leave it unattended. Bring each $100 earned into your house for safekeeping.

 Checks – Never take a check from someone you do not know. This isn’t just a matter of trust, it’s one of responsibility. Most people know to bring cash.

 Hold – Never hold an item without a substantial non-refundable deposit. If you hold it for free, then the customer might not return and you’ve lost your opportunity to sell that item.

Marketing – Place furniture and bikes that will draw attention by the curb where people can see them. Try marketing ideas such as “buy three books/get three free.” It’s amazing how well this works—people respond to the word “free.”

 Clean –If an item looks newer because it’s clean, you’ll be able to get as much as 50% more for it. Run sturdy plastic toys through the dishwasher, spot clean the armchair, wash and hang clothes on a hanger, and polish wood furniture—it’s worth it!

 Expand – Let your kids get in on the action by selling lemonade on hot days or coffee and donuts on cool mornings. Let the kids go to the store with you to buy cups, donuts, napkins, lemonade and sugar. Be sure they understand how to make change and how to be courteous to customers. You’ll see the photo where one of my sons opened a “Cowboy Autograph” stand. Who knows? They may earn enough to fund their college education (or at least buy a new bike!)

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)