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6 Negotiating Tips to Get the Best Prices

NEW YORK ( Money Crashers) -- Negotiating may once have been reserved for the flea market and buying a new car, but not anymore. Today, regular retailers are likely to consider your offer if it's reasonable and works with their bottom line. And while all retailers might not be on board, it never hurts to try haggling, especially on big-ticket items. Hone your negotiating skills to get the best deals whenever and wherever you shop.

1. Offer to pay in cash
Since retailers must pay transaction fees for credit card purchases, you may be able to get a discount by offering cash. This often works best with pawn shops, which need cash for their loan customers, and small businesses. Of course, you never know whether it will work at a major retailer until you try.

2. Request product extras
You can increase the value of your purchase by asking that "extras" be added. Product protection plans, for example, offer security and peace of mind, but can be fairly expensive. You could strike a deal by asking that one be added to your otherwise-expensive purchase at no extra cost. Or, if the product you want requires accessories -- such as a mouse for a laptop, a case, headphones or cables -- see if you can get one or more of these thrown in. The profit on the larger purchase may sufficiently offset the cost of add-ons such that the retailer is willing to deal.

3. Ask that taxes be included
By requesting that sales taxes be included in the sticker price, you can get a slight discount without having to request one directly. The retailer may view this as a minor expense, and if your purchase is significant, it can save you quite a lot -- up to 10% in some areas.

4. Look for flaws
Whatever you're buying -- clothes, shoes, electronics, furniture -- inspect the item for cosmetic flaws. Even if such a flaw is barely noticeable and won't affect its functionality, realize that it's an instant bargaining point. Many stores will offer a small discount automatically on imperfect items. Then you can take it a step further and see how low the retailer is willing to go.

5. Always speak last on price
When negotiating with anyone, always speak last on price. If you sense a willingness to lower the price, ask what the least is you can get the item for. Once that amount is on the table, throw out a figure just slightly lower. Chances are you'll walk away with the item for a price at or near your offer.

6. Use eBay's "Make an Offer" function
Negotiating can be done online as well -- notably, eBay (EBAY) offers the "Make an Offer" function for sellers that set their prices at a certain level but are willing to accept less. If you see this option for something you want, take advantage of it.

Final thoughts
Believe it or not, one of the best ways to get a discount is to be straightforward and simply ask for one, as many big box retailers or other vendors of pricey items are often open to negotiation. I've received discounts at Brandsmart, Office Depot (ODP), Ross (ROST) and even Target (TGT). Pawn shops, jewelry stores and small businesses selling items for greater than $50 are even more prone to haggle. Just don't hesitate to ask.

What other negotiation tips can you suggest? David Bakke writes about smart shopping, investing, and money management on the popular financial blog, Money Crashers, an online resource dedicated to personal finance education including topics such as frugality, money management, investing and retirement.

Money Crashers Personal Finance is an educational website that delves into a wide variety of consumer, personal finance, investment and business topics, including the pros and cons of mutual funds, retirement investing options, the basics of exchange traded funds (ETFs), and tips on creating and operating your own business. The site strives to provide top-notch value and advice that people can implement into their own lives.

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