Lessons From a Pro: How to Get a Better Deal on Big Purchases

Photo by PinkMoose

Bargaining was something I always avoided. I didn’t want to offend anyone.

The idea of haggling seemed as terrible as the word sounded.

Paying the asking price was more comfortable than talking about money, so that is what I always did.

Then a couple of years ago, I mentioned that I thought an apartment rent increase was too high. “No problem,” the agent smoothly answered, “that is just a starting rate.” Five minutes later, she lowered my rent.

It was so easy! I didn’t have to haggle back and forth. I just had to ask. I wondered what other savings I had missed out on because I had been too nervous to ask for a better price.

Doug negotiates with people all day long at work. Whenever we have to make a big purchase, it’s second nature for him to make a deal with the sales agent. He shared tips that help him get better deals than we even expect sometimes.

How to get a better deal:

  1. Ask. If you don’t ask, you’ll miss savings on rent, houses, cars, furniture, services, and any other big purchase. Salespeople talk about money all the time; they’re used to it, so don’t feel too shy to ask. Either they will maintain the original price, or they will lower it. It doesn’t hurt to ask.
  2. Establish yourself as a buyer. Say, “I want to buy this ___. What’s your best price?” If a salesperson thinks you’re window shopping, then he doesn’t have as much incentive to spend time with you to make a better deal. Let him know that if he comes down on the price, he’ll make the sale.
  3. Know the market. Learn competitor prices, options available, and seasonal demand. Make note of details, like when a leasing agent mentions an apartment has been vacant for three months, or when a salesperson mentions new inventory is coming in next week.
  4. Talk to the person who makes the decisions. This will be someone who understands operating costs, cash flow needs, and incoming inventory.  They’ll be able to know what discounts they can afford with the big picture in mind.
  5. Shop midmorning or midafternoon. Those are the times a manager is usually present, and it’s not the end of the day when people are ready to go home.
  6. Ask for added value. Extended warranty, free delivery, and free installation are usually easy add-ons. You can also ask for discounts for the floor model or any minor condition issues.
  7. Be willing to walk away. Sometimes they’ll call you back, but if they don’t, you’ll find another opportunity.
I used to think it was hard to negotiate on price, but it started getting easier for me once I saw how effective it could be. Do you like to bargain, or do you find it hard to ask for a better price?
About Rachel

I write about practical tips that will help you simplify at home. Connect with me on Pinterest and Twitter.


  1. I always ask for a discount! Especially in today’s economy you are likely to get it. I just bought bedding at a major retailer and asked the checkout clerk for a discount and got one. Never hurts to ask!!

    Andrea´s last blog post..Thirtysomething

  2. I would also add to #5, to come in on weekdays at those times. I work in retail, and my manager has to make all discount decisions, and while she is often there on the weekends, it’s guaranteed to catch her on a weekday. Managers often have more perks than the simple sales clerks and will likely work the typical workweek.

    Nice post!

    Shell´s last blog post..Photo Sharing Solved

  3. I used to live in Asia, and there I learned to bargain as it was a fact of daily living. When I came back, I had no idea how ingrained it had become until I went with my parents to buy a new TV. I asked for a discount from a major brand retail outlet! And we got it… that day I learned how much I’d been influenced by Asia, and how asking is the only way of getting ;)

    angelvalerie´s last blog post..The will to finish

  4. Southern Gal says:

    We have found we can deal better if we have cash on hand. Imagine our surprise when we found out quite by accident several years ago that our local hospital slashes up to 30% off your part of the bill if you’ll pay them within 30 days with cash or credit card!! Works the same in many stores. So we always play the cash card…”What if we pay in full right now? What’s the best deal you can give us?” They are always willing to deal if they know a sale is right in front of their noses.

  5. Hi Rachel. My husband is the negotiator in our family as well. Point 2 has worked really well for us in the past.

    Walking in to a place knowing exactly the make, model etc. that you want and saying “We WILL be purchasing this today. What is your best price?” makes them drop the price to where they would be comfortable selling the product at.

    This really cuts down on the haggling back and forth. And number 7 is very important as well. Good post!

  6. Thank you for sharing this. I, too, hate haggling. My dad is a really good business man who makes it look effortless, but I hate talking about money – haggling or not.

    Shannon´s last blog post..My Breastfeeding Story: Low Milk Supply

  7. Haggling is also tough for me for the same reasons you listed. However, just by asking, we’ve received upgrades and deals without hurting anyone’s feelings :-)

    When we went away for our anniversary last year we asked if there were any upgrades available at the hotel (where we had booked the cheapest room) and we were upgraded to the nicest suite they had at no additional cost. Definitely worth asking!

    Nicki at Domestic Cents´s last blog post..Oatmeal Banana Cookies

  8. We recently went shopping for a new mattress. Pretty big expense. We told the salesman exactly what we were looking for and once we found what we wanted, it was way more than what we saved. We told him that we would probably have to come back once we had saved a little more money. He offered to knock off a hundred dollars, give us free delivery and take our old mattress for free. We told him how much we appreciated it, but we still didn’t have enough money, but we agreed to buy one from him once we had enough. We kept our promise, and even though it was weeks later, he still gave us the discounts.

    Rachel´s last blog post..Weekend Reads

  9. My husband is the opposite of yours. He likes to avoid any kind of confrontation – which bargaining and haggling can be seen as. I’d probably do it more but I don’t want to step on his toes in the buying process. But come to think of it we don’t do a lot of in-person buying anymore, mostly on-line so I guess you don’t bargain in that arena.

    renee @ FIMBY´s last blog post..Woods Restoration

  10. Rachel, this is a great post. I think too many people, both woman and men, have been taught it is not polite to talk about money, and they have extended this manner rule into a rule that they should not bargain.

    I too have felt like this, and I have to say I still get uncomfortable with it sometimes. But my day job is as an attorney, and I deal with insurance adjusters daily, and I have to bargain and negotiate, otherwise I would be doing a disservice to my clients. So I bite the bullet and do it, and I have found the more I practice I get the easier it is, and also I have gained more confidence in doing it in my everyday life to benefit me and my family.

    Here are some tips I learned:

    1. Never bargain against yourself. Make an offer, then wait for a counteroffer before going up in your price. There is no reason to go up without the other person coming down.

    2. Always offer an amount lower than you are willing to actually pay, so you have room to negotiate up.

    3. I have a post-it on my desk at work to help me remember when talking to adjusters that says, “Can you do better than that?” You can use this line if you have another offer from someone else to see if people will bid against each other, and you can also ask them to bid against themselves (see rule number 1, some people don’t follow this rule!) to get a better deal.

    P.S. I wrote a blog post about simple living blogs I love, and you are listed if you want to check it out. (See link in link love below)

    Taylor at Household Management 101´s last blog post..Feb 22, Simple Living Blogs I Recommend

  11. I don’t like to do it but I do. I always feel uncomfortable but I don’t show it. Early on we learned that if we ask, all they can do is say no. We’ve saved on furniture by asking if they offer a discount for paying cash; works every time. And for the really big ticket items, like vehicles, be willing to walk away. More times than not they’ll work with you. They’d rather have the sale.

    Nancy´s last blog post..Menu Plan Monday

  12. Thanks Taylor — those are great tips you’ve added.

  13. For some reason there are some things I don’t think twice about negotiating for, and others that make me nervous…for example I absolutely hate buying a car! Thankfully that isn’t something we do very often at all, and maybe that’s why I’m not very good at it. I’ll have to start being more conscious when I’m feeling nervous about negotiating and try and figure out why – thanks for the great tips!

    Steph @ Problem Solvin Mom´s last blog post..Medela Swing Pump & Bottle Set Giveaway!

  14. i have gotten much better at this. and am very good at contacting companies and commenting on products, either with positive and negative criticism. it is often been to my advantage as some companies send a thank you!

  15. My 14 year old son actually learned the skill! He called a stereo store inquiring about purchasing a display model, in an attempt to save money. The salesman told him that they had just received a new shipment and would give him a great price on a new one (same model). I went to the store later that week, durning morning hours and saved him $50 on his purchase by mentioning the phone conversation!

  16. Great post, Rachel… and Taylor’s additional comments are very helpful! I absolutely agree that one of the best things you can do is put your offer out there and just shut up. People too often get uncomfortable in a silence, and if you can reign in your own lack of comfort, you’ll likely discover that the other person will fill the silence by saying yes or offering a counter–and the counter may not be anything you’d come up with on your own but still valuable.

    Another important tip: remember you both want the same thing–for you to take home X. So negotiating doesn’t have to be confrontational but rather more of a friendly conversation. Give the person on the other side a reason to work with you, even if its just that you’re a really nice (but firm!) person. So for example, instead of saying this:

    “Your competitor is selling this for $175; I’ll buy it from you right now for $170.”

    Say this:

    “I really like your store, appreciate that you’re in the ‘hood, and I want to support your business. I noticed that your competitor is selling this for $175 and I wonder if you could do me a little better, since I shop here often. Would you take $170?”

  17. I’m not big on negotiating normally, but we’re planning a wedding, and I’ve definitely gotten better at asking for a lower price. You have to! I think the trick is to remember your budget and have a few lines up your sleeve.

    For example, I try to remember, “How can we get this down to a more affordable price for us?” or “what can we do to lower the price?” I don’t like asking yes or no questions since they can say no too easily.

    One more thing: do your research to feel confident. I got a lot better at negotiating when I read some personal finance books and blogs and learned some jargon. In the same way, I did research on wedding vendors and learned what they all had in common and what the price points would normally get me.

  18. Oh my goodness…..this is just such a hard thing for me. I don’t even like yard sales when they don’t price it but say “make me an offer.” I know I just need to get over it and get brave!

    momstheword´s last blog post..THE SIMPLE WOMAN’S DAYBOOK – FEBRUARY 23rd EDITION

  19. Wonderful post! I have discovered that this works in some surprising places… one of my credit cards lowered my interest rate just because I asked. (The funny thing is that I was kind of joking at the time: the rep on the phone asked, “is there anything else we can do for you today?”, I replied, “Not unless you can lower my rate, hehe”… and he switched me to a department that does that!)

    Ever since then, I’ve realized that there are advantages out there that you can’t get if you don’t ask for them!

    Similarly, I’ve gotten a lot better at speaking up about bad experiences with products or services. I’m pretty shy and I’ve worked in customer service forever, so I have always had a hard time with “being difficult”. But politely letting a manager or store rep know that something you bought didn’t work, or that you’ve been waiting forever for an appetizer, or whatever, will help recoup whatever you’ve lost, AND let *them* know that there may be a problem.

    Mara´s last blog post..Paper Hoarder

  20. I used to be quite intimidated by haggling or bargaining, but over the years, I have gotten much more confident. I now actually prefer situations where I can have some say in the price, and look for opportunities to ask, rather than just accepting the stated price.

    I find that as long as I am reasonable and polite, I am rarely turned down, and if I am, I just say thank you and walk away graciously. No big deal.

    I love that I have learned that you can always ask for a discount, anywhere, even when you think the prices are set. Grocery stores, phone or internet services, even big retail stores if you would like to purchase something out of package or with a minor flaw. We have definitely saved a lot of money this way!

    Stephanie @ Keeper of the Home´s last blog post..Living with PCOS: Some Q&A

  21. We built a house last year and I stepped out of my comfort zone to negotiate a price on almost every big item purchase in our home. I saved us thousands and thousands of dollars and still got most of the stuff I wanted in the build. If nothing else, ask “can you give me 10%” on this? The answer will likely be yes, especially in this economy. Discounts like that make a big impact in the long run!

  22. Walking away is always a good option. When my fiancé was buying a car last year, thousands was shaved off the price by simply “waking away”.

    Carla´s last blog post..Eco Fashion: What is it?

  23. If it’s an online purchase, I order something small and inexpensive. They usually send you a coupon for a percentage off. Use that for the big purchase.

    Meredith´s last blog post..Storing Your Electronics

  24. I got 10% off a desk at Pottery Barn – just by asking the manager. Most important thing is to ask when no one else is around. Also, keep in mind that any “damaged” items are almost always negotiable (think of the as-is section an IKEA).

  25. The end of the month is also a great time to negotiate prices as sales staff are looking to boost their monthly quotas.
    Sally´s last post…Theme for the New Year