Fancy saving £100 on presents, £75 on a party, £20 on your tree and have your Brussels Sprouts thrown in for free? If so, then learning to negotiate could be your best Christmas gift this year.
The great British public often pays full-rate for everything as they find haggling toe-curlingly embarrassing; after all, it's not very British. Haggling is very hit or miss, relying on a person’s gift of the gab to get money off, giving no justification to the shopkeeper as to why they should offer a discount. I talk about negotiating, a much more considered way of getting a better deal – by persuading a shop keeper with politeness, charm and forethought (skills most of us instinctively use to get our own way) to give you better value.
Christmas present shopping
1. Do your research
Firstly do some research on where you can get the best deals on your chosen gifts; it’s amazing how confidence grows when you see outlets vary in price by as much as 50% for the same product.
Recently for MyFamilyClub I highlighted a difference of £143 for the same vacuum cleaner from competing stores; it shows that a price-tag is what a retailer would like you to pay and not cast in tablets of stone.
2. Choose the right time
October and early November is a good time to approach a store as the Christmas rush hasn’t started and shops tend to be quieter, especially at the beginning of the week.
3. Talk about prices
Use the research to help gain a better price. Approach someone who has the ability to offer a deal, perhaps the manager or senior salesperson, whoever looks less busy.
Be keen but non-committal; for example, if you are buying the soft toy ‘Let’s Rock Elmo’ and the price tag says £37.99, tell the salesperson that you’ve seen it on sale elsewhere for £34.99; you would buy now if they would do it for £32.
4. Bulk buy
Larger savings can be had if you are buying several items from one store. I would suggest clubbing together with friends and creating a shopping list of products. The bigger the order, the more the shopkeeper will be interested, with much to gain or lose.
Perhaps between you the list includes two clock radios, an MP3 player, mini speakers, a DVD recorder, headphones and blank DVDs.
The good news is electrical stores are often great for negotiating. Calculate what the overall cost would normally be, as well as knowing what you would be happy to pay. Say you are prepared to buy several items (e.g. two clock radios, DVD recorder, MP3 player and mini-speakers – holding back the headphones and blank DVDs) if they offer a good deal, and ask what price they could do them for.
When they offer a price (assuming it’s acceptable) say you are prepared to do it if they “throw in” some headphones and blank DVDs. You may only get one or the other as well as the discount, but it’s worth a try!
Christmas party negotiating
Organising a party for friends or colleagues at Christmas? Remember that competition between restaurants is hot and owners will be keen to gain your custom, especially if you can be flexible with dates, as earlier on in the week and month tend to be quieter.
Study the menu and prices, making note of what you’re prepared to pay per head. For example, perhaps there are 18 of you, the menu says £18 per head, but you want to pay £14.
Tell them you are looking at several venues, dropping in the name of a local competitor. Say you really like their restaurant, however £18 per head is too expensive, especially considering other restaurants’ great offers; would they be able to do it for £13? This allows room for manoeuvre. In addition, or to help bring overall costs down, you can always ask for some complimentary bottles of wine and/or soft drinks.
Free Brussels sprouts
Over the last year I have changed where I buy fruit and veg, finding my local market stall better quality than the supermarket, cheaper and sometimes prepared to do a deal.
Go towards the end of the day when the market trader is eager to pack up and go home; in their mind the less they have to load back in the van the better.
Say to them you are happy to buy, for example, the cauliflower, broccoli, chestnuts, plums and potatoes if they throw in the Brussels sprouts. Perhaps for an extra bit of an incentive say “go on, it’s Christmas!”
Money doesn’t grow on trees
Though given the price of Christmas trees, you would have thought it does!
Keep your eyes and ears open, seeing what prices are on offer in the area. Note the cheapest price – they may not be the best quality, but that doesn't matter for this exercise; say for example it’s £6 a foot.
Go to the seller that you want to buy from, presumably the one who has the nicest trees. Say you were passing and noticed the trees (£9 per foot) looked nice, however expensive compared to down the road, but as you were here you would be happy to buy that seven foot tree for £40. They may try to get a little bit more, though you can always say it’s still too much and walk towards your car, you never know, they may call you back and say “go on then.”
And finally, remember negotiating is for life not just for Christmas!
Marc Lockley is a coach and money saving writer. He is the author of How To Pay Less For More, a book showing people how to negotiate in shops, showrooms and even with the boss over working part-time. As a dad of two, Marc values his work/life balance and is a dab hand at using money saving techniques to keep the bills down.