Master the art of haggling

Haggling strikes fear into many people’s hearts. Thousands of shoppers would rather pay over the odds in order to avoid the embarrassment of trying to negotiate a discount. The first step in mastering the art is therefore to face your fears.

In fact, according to new research from Gumtree, the UK’s number one classifieds site, we’re missing out on a massive £6.5 billion in potential savings each year because we don’t feel comfortable negotiating when buying via online marketplaces – that’s a potential loss of £496.20 per person.

moneymagpie_win-winIt’s usually helpful to bear in mind that you spend half of your life negotiating anyway. Whether you’re agreeing how to spend the weekend with your partner, or trying to limit your child’s chocolate intake, you’re developing excellent skills.

This article will teach you how to make the most of those skills, in order to save money through haggling.

We spoke with Derek Arden who has been an expert in international negotiation for over 25 years and has negotiated deals totaling up to £5 billion. He also the author of a book on the subject, Win Win – How to get a winning result from persuasive negotiations.


the rewards of haggling

Young couple buying fruit at a market

Whenever you decide to try haggling, you’re opening the door to potential savings.

In his book, Arden says there are two kinds of people in the world – those who negotiate, and those who don’t. Equally there are two prices in the world – one for those who do negotiate and one for those who don’t.

In fact Arden estimates that over the 25 years he has been negotiating he has saved over £250,000 (after taking into account compound interest).


where can you haggle?

Couple buying a car

The kinds of savings on offer means it’s worth considering haggling in all sorts of situations.

Where a trader sells the same thing for a variety of prices, you can get some of the best results from haggling. One of the most fruitful places to haggle is at the car showroom, where negotiation can save you thousands of pounds. Check out our guide to getting the best price for a used car.

TV and broadband companies also have a huge array of tariffs and charges for different customers, so by asking to be put through to the cancellations department and asking them to match their deal for new customers, you could save hundreds of pounds a year.

Likewise gyms often have special deals running for new members, so if your membership has rolled over for more than a year, it’s time to ask them to match the best deal. Our guide to cutting the cost of gym membership includes tips on haggling the price down.

When you’re dealing with individuals providing their services on a freelance basis, it can be particularly daunting to haggle face-to-face. However, freelancers like gardeners, cleaners, tutors and babysitters all set their own rates. If you can come up with lower hourly rate that still allows them to make money, they will take it seriously.

You can even save money in areas where you might have assumed there was no wiggle room at all. Check out our guides to haggling for holiday money, and haggling on the high street.


overcome your fear of haggling

Woman hiding behind her hands

There seems to be a fear in a lot of us that makes us hesitant or nervous about negotiating, particularly in everyday life.

Thankfully Derek Arden has some solid advice: “You need to practice. Pick somewhere you can negotiate and see what you can do.

“Electrical stores are often a good place to try. Even if you’re not able to bring the price down, you might be able to get something extra thrown in.”

In other words, flex your negotiating muscles and always try your luck for a better deal. You’ll start improving your confidence in no time.

There are things you can do to help make yourself more confident. Arden says  “Appearing confident is obviously very important. Wear clothes that make you feel confident, as this puts you in a good psychological state.

“If you’re negotiating on the phone it’s often good to stand up as you’ll feel more confident and more oxygen is able to go to the brain.

Ultimately though you’ll have to take the plunge and get stuck into the negotiation.


ten steps to better haggling

Woman buying products in a shop

It will help to boost your confidence if you have a plan when you go in to start haggling. Any successful haggling strategy has ten steps:

  1. Get your timing right. At a car salesroom, the end of the month is always a useful time to buy, because salespeople are chasing targets. In shops, don’t try to get into protracted negotiations on a busy Saturday afternoon, because it’s not worth their time.
  2. Start with your research. If the retailer is charging other people less for the same thing, what are they charging? The best way to find this it to use private browsing when you search online, so the provider shows you all its best deals. If the retailer has one advertised price, then what are other sellers charging for the same thing? Once you know this, you know what you can realistically expect their best offer to be.
  3. Decide your bottom line. What’s the most you are prepared to pay? Do you need them to match the cheapest price elsewhere, or to beat it? Do you want anything else thrown in for good measure? Deciding this in advance will stop you having to think on your feet.
  4. Be likeable. Don’t be smarmy, but you want the trader to like you enough to do a deal. The aim of any negotiation is for you both to leave happy, so be nice about the item you want to buy, and polite as you go through the process.
  5. Open negotiations with a friendly nudge to highlight that you want to do a deal. Something like: “It’s lovely, but I’m afraid it’s just a little bit beyond my budget” would work.
  6. Use silence. Don’t be in a hurry to suggest the first price, because you can’t go down from there. Let them make you an offer.
  7. Prepare some handy phrases. Having a script will give you confidence, so something like “I was hoping to pay closer to xx”, or “I really can’t stretch that far, can you do anything else for me?” can help bring the price down further.
  8. Use your research. If the price they’re offering is still above the deal on offer from their competitors, ask them to match it.
  9. Don’t be afraid to push. Even when you’ve hit your goal, it’s always worth asking for a little bit more. This is where you can ask for extras to be thrown in. They may still have more wiggle room, and it would be a shame not to take advantage of it.
  10. Be prepared to walk away. A final gambit along the lines of “The most I can possibly pay is xx”, or “If you can’t knock anything else off, them I’m afraid I can’t buy from you today”, can be very effective – especially if they are trying to hit sales targets. However, if you make this threat, then you need to be prepared to walk away empty-handed.


Free guide from Gumtree

online shopping

It’s not just on the high street you can haggle, there’s plenty of opportunity to haggle online – yet two thirds of people have admitted they wouldn’t try negotiating when meeting the seller.

As a result, Gumtree has teamed up with the How to Academy and negotiation expert Gavin Presman to create a guide to ‘The Etiquette of Buying and Selling Online’. Free to download at, it offers simple tips for both buyers and sellers to help them confidently navigate the online marketplace process, from making first contact, to meeting to retrieve/handover the item, to the transaction itself.

A free interactive workshop will also take place on 4th September at 6:45pm at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design, London.

“As a nation, we’re becoming more aware of the benefits of online marketplaces, from the range of items on offer to the convenience of being able to pick up a rare find locally,” a Gumtree spokesperson said. “But the increasingly anonymous nature of online buying and the fact we’re generally a well-mannered bunch, means we often find it too awkward to negotiate – or even raise the issue if an item isn’t up to scratch – when we have to meet individuals face-to-face.

“That’s why we’ve partnered with the How to Academy to help people become much more comfortable and confident throughout the whole buying and selling process. Online marketplaces open up a world of opportunity, be it making money out of something no longer needed, making big cost savings, or finding something loved that’s no longer on sale elsewhere. Our guide will help Brits avoid the awkwardness that could hold them back from the thrill of discovering a hidden gem or cashing in on their own attic equity.”


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