As a frugalist, I always try to get the best deal possible in whatever I buy or pay for. If you’re going to buy something, why not try to get the best possible price? Who says that the marked price is the price that you must pay?

What’s the secret to getting a discount on your purchases? A lot of the time, you’ll get a discount by simply asking for one.

Keys to Negotiating

What are the keys to negotiating? Here’s what I have learned:

  • Be prepared to walk away.
  • Be informed about what the competition offers for leverage.
  • Get the other party to name the price FIRST.
  • Ask the key question “Is that the best you can do?”.


Here are some prime examples of some negotiations that we have gone through recently:

Cell Phone

As my cell phone contract was up, I was considering going prepaid wireless since it would probably save us money for the amount that we use a cell phone. Being prepared to walk away from my cell phone provider, I called them to cancel my contract. Low and behold, they offered me an amazing deal to keep me as a customer.

Although I was quite satisfied with their offer, I threw in the question “is that the best you can do?

Magically, they included a couple extra features to be on the safe side.


We had our eye on a decorative shelf that was a tad bit expensive but it was the one that my wife wanted. We discovered from an employee that the floor model was the last one left. As I knew that my wife wanted the piece of furniture, I asked the employee to call his manager to find out if the floor model could be sold at a reduced price.

They came back with reducing the price by 50%. Half price is pretty good, but half price for no box, no return policy and a couple dings wasn’t quite good enough.

So again, I asked the question “is that the best you can do?

Again, the manager was contacted, and they gave us another 10% off.


This shopping trip was similar to the Walmart story. We had our eye on a particular sofa and chair at a local furniture store and asked about the details. As it was only their floor model remaining, we asked about their floor model discount and was offered 15% off their regular price. Upon further inspection, we mentioned the few scratches and other minor damage to the material. They immediately offered us a better price to take the model “as is”.

Final Thoughts

I’m not saying that every time you go out to the grocery store that you should ask for a discount on your vegetables. After a while, you’ll know the consumer items that you can negotiate a better price with (floor models for one).

Next time you’re out to purchase a big ticket item, try using the strategy outlined above. I’m interested to hear back as to how it turns out.

Do you negotiate your larger purchases? If so, what is your strategy?

Photo credit: Aleutia


  1. frankal on May 26, 2008 at 9:14 am

    check out and go into the forums. There you will find discussion about every deal, coupon, and discount in Canada. I have saved hundreds on my internet, cable, telephone and other regular services because i was informed of what was available. It is also a great place to find out about latest “0% for 15 months” credit card balance transfer offers and many other great deals that have saved me thousands over the years.


  2. The Reverend on May 26, 2008 at 9:58 am

    i’ll echo that people should call their cable/phone providers and ask for discounts. I called mine to downgrade our cable package over the summer months (i was not disgruntled or wanting to move my services or anything, simply a short term downgrade to save a few bucks while we spend more time outside) and they offered me us our current package at the price of the downgraded one for a savings of $20 bucks a month.

    Not bad..

  3. FrugalTrader on May 26, 2008 at 11:05 am

    frankal, yes, I frequent the forums often. I look there first before buying anything. :)

    reverend, yes it’s true. Cable/internet providers value subscribers, so they would be willing to drop their prices tremendously to keep you.

  4. Canadian Capitalist on May 26, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Sometimes all you have to do is mention that you’ve been a customer for x years and you are looking for a discount.

  5. Al on May 26, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    I saw an add in a flyer for a Bell Expressvu receiver that would give a large credit to your bill. I had been thinking about getting a second one and decided to go for it. Of course it turns out that the deal is just for new customers. I called Bell up and pointed out that the only way I could get that kind of a deal is to be a new customer for someone else, so they matched it. Moral of the story, any deal for new customers only is likely available for existing ones if you ask.

  6. MikeG on May 26, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    Of course you can also save a large amount off retail by buying used at ebay, garage sales, craigslist and kijiji . I got a $2400 couch that was 2 yrs old for $400, me and the wife love it.


  7. GIV on May 26, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    All your tips are good ones, but I’ve found that a willingness to walk away is even more important outside north america.

    In China, haggling is an art, and it takes a while to learn. Quite often, items in stores will be sold for as little as 10% of the sticker price.

    I’ve found you have to have a number in your head of “this item is worth $X to me.” The seller similarly knows what he/she paid for it, and what they can therefore sell it for and still make a profit. it’s just a matter of finding that middle ground. In almost every case, it exists.

    It’s a bit of a song and dance, but i was amazed how often a shopkeep in Shanghai would literally run down the street after me to accept my last offer. Being willing to walk away is a powerful motivator.

  8. Dividend Growth Investor on May 26, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    Thanks for sharing these bargaining tips with us. My advice is when you are buying something to not listen to salespeople telling you that purchasing that car, furniture, computer is a great investment and that it would keep its value. Buying things to use in your everyday life is not an investment, but an expense .

    And one other thing, if you like buying books and your bookstore does not want to negotiate with you, you can always find books cheaper on amazon or even for free at your local library..

  9. T on May 26, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    The threat of walking away works when returning a big ticket item for exchange. Typically the store will want to charge you a 15% restocking fee, however if you express your willingness to go elsewhere they’ll usually waive the fee.

  10. Rob G on May 26, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    I believe it is very important for the other party to begin with the starting price. You might think it’s worth X dollars and low and behold they come out with a lower price.

    My favorite statement is: “Is that the best price you can do!” Don’t ask it as a question but say it as a statement. I find when I’m a little timid they tend to say yes and when I’m confidant they are like “let me see what else I can do”.

    MDJ would you be able to make a post on buying a car/other products from the US. My buddy found a 2006 Nissan Pathfinder for 16000$ through ebay in the states. On that same SUV is 24000$. I’m also curious to know what kind of customs I’d have to pay if I were to purchase items from US websites. With the dollar at par there could be alot of big savings out on the net.

    Take care,

  11. Cannon_fodder on May 26, 2008 at 6:32 pm

    Rob G,

    There is an absolutely massive, and very informative, thread at RedFlagDeals about buying cars in the US and all of the steps necessary to make it happen. They even mention some dealerships which have, or have not, been helpful.

  12. Cannon_fodder on May 26, 2008 at 7:06 pm

    I’ve built a reputation for buying only when there is a deal. I’ve tried to educate my youngest daughter about this and I think she is picking up some tips.

    For example, when I go looking for clothes, I go to the sale racks almost exclusively. Except for young men, styles don’t change that much. And my size hasn’t changed in years. Thus, I can buy clothes that are out of season at a greatly reduced price. She sees that I don’t tell her to shop one way but I, in turn, shop a different way. She also sees that I can afford to pay full price but I make a conscious decision not to. I tell her that if I really like it, I can always wait and it will go on sale later. It will fit and look and last exactly the same way, but it will keep more money in my pocket.

    If you are willing to pay in cash, and you have an independent store (as opposed to a Sears for example), you can sometimes get additional savings. I went in to buy a dress shirt and a tie and I asked “Is that the best that you can do?”. He asked me if I was going to be paying in cash, and after I said I could, he then offered to throw in a belt for free.

    I’ve used the walking away ploy many times with great success. Shopping for electronics, furniture, cars, houses, mortgages, etc. with that attitude can save you thousands.

    Make sure the deal is written up as you verbally have agreed to – one trick that the salespeople will use is to leave off something previously agreed to or include something (e.g. tax or finance charges) that they said would be waived.

    One of the best moments was a couple of years ago when I actually taught my wife how to do this while we were shopping for a dining room set (she is pretty uncomfortable with negotiating). I did most of the upfront work but I had a phone call that came in . So, she came back to me, and I told her what to say and just be firm. She put the guy through his paces for a good 10 minutes after I worked him over for 15-20 minutes and she got a deal we were quite happy with. I can’t say she enjoyed it, but I think it was a real eye opener.

    The important thing that you must always remember, the product isn’t yours so don’t get emotionally attached until it is yours. If you don’t get it at the price you want, then go someplace else or wait until you can get it at that price.

    Sometimes you can get high margin items at a reduced cost so that it isn’t as painful for the vendor but you still benefit. An example are accessories when buying a car. A lot of them are, percentage wise, nice profit machines for the dealership. Therefore, it doesn’t cost them that much to reduce the price to you. It really has to be something you couldn’t get cheaper somewhere else (unlike car mats, upgraded wheels, stereo – go aftermarket and save a lot).

    I always take a respectful approach with the salesperson, the company and the product. I let them know that, while the price may be a very reasonable price, it is just more than I’m willing to pay. I do not get adversarial – the salesperson is a human being who is trying to earn a living for his family, and the company is trying to earn a profit and both have that right. I would only downplay the product if it is a floor model and I honestly believe the value has diminished due to use or cosmetic blemishes.

    When my wife worries that it seems I’m being unfair, I remind her that both parties are exercising their choice – I have a choice not to buy their product at their price, and they have a choice not to sell it to me at my price.

  13. Patrick on May 27, 2008 at 11:51 am

    “is that the best you can do?“

    one of the best questions you can ask when negotiating a purchase. :)

    I also think Cannon_fodder summed it up nicely: “both parties are exercising their choice – I have a choice not to buy their product at their price, and they have a choice not to sell it to me at my price.”

    nice tips.

  14. paulette on May 27, 2008 at 12:00 pm

    Asking discounts works in bulk purchases. Minimal on retail buying.

  15. Telly on May 28, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Seems you guys seem to have better luck than I. My husband and I always seem to get the “nope, sorry, that’s the best I can do”. :(

    Maybe we just need a little more practice.

  16. FrugalTrader on May 28, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Telly, most of the time that’s what you’ll get. The odd time however, you’ll get a better deal. Never know unless you ask. :) It also depends on what you’re buying.

  17. InvestAssetWealth on May 3, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Don’t lead the salesperson to believe you are over-anxious to make the purchase. If they believe you will purchase no matter what, your chances of a discount are gone. Floor models, open-box items, obvious returns, refurbished products, and vehicles new or uses are always open for negotiation.

    Great point about utilities too FrugalTrader. If you’re a paying customer in an industry with lots of competition, you can always find a better deal.


  18. Caitlin on May 4, 2009 at 1:18 pm

    Thanks for the awesome tips! Some of the comments have been very helpful too.

    I’m not saying that every time you go out to the grocery store that you should ask for a discount on your vegetables.

    Speaking from all my highschool years of grocery store cashier experience, some people do not have the right idea about how and when to haggle. A grocery store is not really the best place to do so. Do not try to haggle with the cashier; they have no power to help you. And please for the love of little green apples do not haggle with a powerless cashier when there are a dozen people in line behind you. You saving 12 cents on a can of corn is not worth completely wasting the time of everyone else in line. (not to mention the by people farther back in line who didn’t know it was you wasting their time and take it out on the poor cashier).
    My very first “negotiating experience” was when I was a cashier at 17, and a woman started screaming at me to haggle down the price of a couple cans that had torn (not removed) labels.

    It’s partially due to my bad haggling experiences from being on the “other side” that I’m not a very good negotiator now. I empathize way too much with the salesperson and manager (and I’m pretty sure it shows) because I don’t want to make them feel the way that woman made me feel, even though I know that that woman was (hopefully) the exception, and I know that I’m not the one throwing a huge hissy fit. I still need a lot of practice, though. Perhaps I can incorporate some of your tips in my next big purchase and give it a try again! My cell phone package is up for renewal in a couple months!

  19. Audree on May 4, 2009 at 6:13 pm

    I have a friend who always try bargaining prices, asking to talk to the manager etc. She finds something wrong with her salad; she asks for a free bottle of wine. It becomes very embarrassing to be with her, and you know in the end she gets the deal she wants because the manager just wants her to leave because she makes his life miserable…

    in this case, I think a person should stop trying to get a better deal.

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