TOUGH Budget reforms this month won’t be open to negotiation, but your costs of living always will be. One of the best ways to save hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars a year on goods and services is simple: Just pay less for them. And the secret to paying less? Negotiation.
Armed with increasingly sophisticated price-tracking tools on their smartphones and other devices, consumers have become bolder.
They know they often have the upper hand over sellers, particularly on big-ticket items — and anything you can buy online.
Don’t be embarrassed to bargain. If you view haggling as a discussion of joint interests and put fair terms on the table, it will be a win-win for all parties.
No need to sweet-talk, smooth-talk or fast-talk anyone, just be straight up and ask for the best price, terms and conditions.
There are the usual items we are happy to haggle over price such as cars and real estate but here are some less obvious ones.
Give it a go, if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.
Most hotels would rather rent a room at a cheaper rate than leave it empty earning no money at all. You don’t need to be a champion negotiator and you certainly don’t need to be aggressive to secure a better rate. Just ask politely: “Is that the best rate you can do?” or “Can you throw in a late check out at that price?”
If they’re not willing to come down in price, request extras such as a free breakfast, a cheaper rate for multiple nights, free parking, a welcome drink or bottle of wine, discounts to nearby attractions, or freebies for the kids.
Remember, online hotel rates are always cheaper than the walk-in or call-in price so start with the internet, but it’s worth asking if the hotel will value-add.
Australians routinely haggle over the price of a car or shop around for low-cost airfares. But a discount on the kids’ school fees?
Most schools will give a discount to families where more than one child attends. Lesser known though, is that some schools also offer reduced rates if a parent or grandparent attended. That can add up to big savings at private schools, particularly on boarding fees.
For those parents able to afford to pay fees upfront or prepay fees, most schools offer discounts. Parents could use their credit card to earn reward points. Of course, parents paying by credit card would have to be in a position to pay off the credit card balance in full by the due date in order to avoid the high credit card interest rates.
Everything is negotiable, even medical bills.
We don’t suggest haggling with your GP. Most consultations, 85 per cent — are bulk-billed anyway, but there is now increasing competition in the marketplace for procedures such as dentistry, laser eye surgery and cosmetic enhancements.
We put the question to medical specialists on whether their fees were negotiable and many said they do provide discounts if you ask.
DISCOUNTS ARE MOST LIKELY:
If the patient undergoes multiple procedures during the same operation
If the patient has had a previous procedure with the clinic
If the patient is flexible on when they have the surgery
If the patient pays upfront
If you are suffering from financial hardship
PHONE AND BROADBAND CONTRACTS
You can definitely ask for (and receive) better deals from telcos, especially if you are willing to commit to a 24 month contract. You will also have better negotiating power if you have other services already with the provider. Telstra is just one which is open to loyalty discounts for existing customers. Some — including Telstra — do “welcome deals” for new customers.
Knowing comparison prices before you go into a store will help you get a better deal. Check out consumer reports, search online websites and browse stores beforehand.
Bring physical evidence with you. If you go into an electronics retailer and show a printout of an online ad featuring a camera for a lower price, with no tax or shipping, the store may be more willing to make a deal. If the salesperson can only drop an item to a certain price, they may be more willing to throw in free or discounted accessories for a lower overall price.
Like cars, prices are always negotiable on furniture. The best technique is to give the sales person a reason to give you a discount. A customer offering to take the floor model or willing to wait for a special order or buying multiple pieces as a package deal are reasons to request a discount. Being willing to pay cash or waive a store’s free-delivery offer also might help drive the price down.
Want a big discount? Be willing to live with scuffs or scratches. If the item you’re considering is discontinued, scratched, or otherwise distressed, you could start out with an offer that might be 50 per cent or more off the tag price.
Research which products are hot and which are not; the best deals can be made on those that are less in demand.
If all else fails, tell a sob story. “I like your sofa, but I didn’t plan to spend so much.” This is not a lie. You have a right to set your own budget.
If you’re trying to negotiate a better price on your weekly shop at Coles or Woolies — where prices are regulated — you may fall short and get a confused look from the cashier.
But if there is a fault with an item (eg the wrapper is damaged) you can ask for a discount. They can usually do something on it.
And while the major supermarkets aren’t open to negotiating, the butcher and fruit shop down the road may be. Bottle shops may offer discounts on particular items to regular shoppers or throw in an extra bottle of plonk with bulk buys. Remember if you don’t ask, you won’t receive.
It comes down to relationships. If you are looking to buy insurance from a provider you already have a relationship with, they’ll be more inclined to give you a good deal. Before you approach the provider, compare premiums online. Then call the provider and bargain using the information you have on other companies. The difference between insurance providers is significant — you can save up to 40 per cent just by shopping around.
Consumer networks such as One Big Switch are free to join and negotiate on your behalf for better deals on household bills such as home and car insurance.
Banks are always open to negotiating better deals on their services, particularly home loans, with most willing to waiver fees or offer a more competitive rate than an opposition lender.
If you are seeking finance for a home, the best place to start is with an accredited mortgage broker, who can research hundreds of loans and products in just 30 minutes to find the best one for you.
If you are wanting to refinance it is well worth asking your lender if they can put forward any special offers to further strengthen your relationship. Customers with a track record of on time payments have a higher chance of receiving deals from lenders.
Looking around the market for better alternatives to your current deal and then taking this information back to your existing lender is an effective method for securing a better deal. It gives you bargaining power to imply that unless your current lender is able to match the deal offered by competitors, you see no value in sticking around and suffering tougher repayments.
The increasing number of zero or low-balance transfer cards on the market is giving consumers more bargaining power when it comes to credit cards.
If you’re considering switching your balance to another company, give your provider a call first and see what kind of offer they are willing to make in order to keep you as a customer. They might offer a cheaper interest rate, or waive your annual fee.
Banks may offer reduced rates and fees on your card if you have more than one account with them. Commonwealth Bank is just one provider that offers free travel insurance to its credit card holders — ring and see what else they can throw in.
Landlords know the value of a good tenant. While it’s difficult to negotiate paying less after you’ve been renting for a length of time, it is possible to negotiate on rental increases. If you’ve been paying rent on time and have taken good care of the property, then it’s in your landlord’s best interest to keep you as a tenant. The threat of covering full mortgage repayments on a vacant investment property — even for a short time — could be enough to convince your landlord to negotiate reasonable rental terms with you. Talk to the property manager and look online to find out what similar properties are going to show cause.
Animals are often an important part of the equation for tenants and a little negotiating can help secure a rental home for you and your pets.
Consider offering the landlord more rent, a pet bond, a longer lease, or have pet references from previous rentals.
HOW TO HAGGLE:
Ask: If you don’t ask, you don’t receive.
Be polite: You don’t have to smooth-talk anyone into giving you a good deal. You just have to be polite and ask them for their best price.
Be funny: Humour can lighten up the atmosphere and soften the seller’s defences
If in doubt: You can haggle at any store with sales staff.
Don’t waste their time: Establish yourself as a serious buyer and salespeople will be more inclined to strike a better deal.
Do your research: It helps to research prices online to get an idea what different providers are offering.
Talk to the right person: Don’t waste your time trying to bargain with someone who isn’t in a position to help you. Speak to the manager.
Timing is everything: Ask for discounts when the manager is most likely working and the store is not busy. For example, haggling on a car or furniture is best done during the week, not weekends. Sales staff are generally least busy at the start or the end of the day.
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