Haggling and the Art of Negotiating: Is That the Best Price You Can Offer

Asking for a discount is not a very common part of American culture. As a result, when you ask for a reduction in the price, especially as it relates to services, most people want to offer you something and not leave you empty-handed. Please share your experience when asking for a better price.

As the years of being debt-free go by, I recognize that this lifestyle has really freed me in many ways. I don't have the newest car, the latest clothes, the biggest house, etc., but what I do have is peace of mind. When I really want something, I now plan for it and save, save, save. So, when I finally can afford it, there is a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I get to experience the vacation (with frequent flier miles) or buy the new outfit (on sale).

I recently read a magazine article about a man who decided at the age of 35 he was going to retire at 50. This man and his wife made severe sacrifices in order to achieve their goal. Although I found the story inspirational, I think the frugality required for this goal is too extreme for my taste. For me, life is a journey about striking a balance. I don't get the sense that this couple, with their "hard core" focus, ever stopped to smell the roses along the way.

Earlier this year it occurred to me that service-related purchases such as lawyers, accountants, hairdressers, mechanics, handy men, and personal bankers quote me their top-line price. That said, I decided that if I could shave 10% off here, and 25% off there from services, I could put the savings toward reaching my next goal.

Throughout the year, I've been experimenting with a simple question, "Is that the best price you can offer me?"

When I first attempted to ask this question, I said it quietly, cautiously and without much confidence. I found it very difficult to ask this very simple question. As a result, the responses were hit and miss as well. Over these past few months, my confidence has grown because of the successes I've gotten with trimming down the price.

I bite my lip and I don't say a word. I think to myself, "breathe." That's all I need to do in this exact moment. Stay present. Allow the other person to respond.

The worst the person could say is no; in which case I will probably pay the full amount anyway. There's nothing to lose.

Because negotiating is not something frequently done in the United States, we just accept the price quoted and pay it. It sometimes comes as a bit of a shock to the service person being asked the question because they aren't often put on the spot about their charges. Now I try to challenge myself to remember to get out of my comfort zone and ask the question, "Is that the best price you can offer?"

Especially for bigger ticket services, I try to make a conscious decision to ask up front so that I can shop around and get the best price possible. This tactic challenges me to really pay attention to what's going on and not mindlessly pay the bill. I would much rather stretch my dollar as far as it can possibly go. The mechanic still gets paid for his services, but I get to put the savings towards the new electronic gadget that my nephew wanted for his birthday. And, nothing replaces the excitement and smiles of surprising someone you care about so much.

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