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Can You Actually Haggle on Holiday Gifts?

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With all the spending people do during the holidays, it’s a huge priority for some people to save as much money as humanly possible. That’s part of the reason behind the popular Black Friday and Cyber Monday events, not to mention the slew of early bird sales and relentless ads consumers encounter this time of year.

Battling Black Friday crowds and chasing sales aren’t the only ways to save money on holiday gifts. You may want to consider negotiating for the prices you want, rather than running around town to find them. We asked some experienced negotiators to share their haggling tips with consumers looking to save money this holiday season.

1. Shop Local

It’s not impossible to negotiate with big-box retailers, but it’s a lot less likely to happen, because if they don’t get your sale, they still stand a good chance of getting someone else to pay full price.

“The best place to negotiate is a mom-and-pop store, because the person behind the counter is usually the decision maker,” said Tiffany Aliche, owner of personal finance site The Budgetnista. If you go to a large retailer, the cashier probably doesn’t have the authority or knowledge to negotiate prices, though you can try to speak to a manager to accomplish that.

2. Know What You’re Looking for

If you’re planning on haggling, it’s best to be negotiating for something you really want and realistically fits in your budget. Make sure you have an idea how much an item goes for at other retailers before you start trying to lower the price, and think about how important it is for you to get that particular thing.

“Before you even start, you have to know the price you want to pay, then you’re able to really target as close to that price as possible,” said Carrie Pink, a financial educator. “You want to talk about their competitors’ similar items that you’ve seen other places for less. That’s how you open the conversation and see what their temperature is on price negotiation — some places will immediately turn cold and others will start to pitch themselves.”

Go in with research, if you prefer to buy from one place but know it’s cheaper elsewhere. A lot of sellers are open to price matching. Dan Nainan, who works as a comedian, likes to use a price-scanning app on his phone to get competitor pricing and use that to negotiate on the spot.

3. Be Nice

Haggling shouldn’t be hostile, though.

“You want to get on their good side, you want to be friendly,” Nainan said. His goal is to brighten the person’s day with some kind words or pleasant conversation, so they’re interested in helping him out. “You want to be their best friend. Be genuine and not fake, because they can tell.” That tactic has helped him get deals on everything from groceries to flight upgrades, because he thinks anything is negotiable.

“The No. 1 thing is be nice,” said Jennifer Martin, a business consultant who spent most of her life in sales. “I think it’s much easier to get what you want when you’re friendly and appreciative. Let the person you’re buying from know how much that offer is going to mean to you.”

In essence, haggling can be very much about your conversation and people skills. At the same time, that means it can be really exhausting — think about how much effort it would cost you to negotiate every little thing you buy. Make sure it’ll be worth the savings.

4. Find the Win-Win

In the end, haggling is about making everyone happy: You get something you want for a price you like, and the seller makes money. That’s part of why negotiation works better with small-business owners — they know where their profit margins lie and how sales affect their bottom line.

Keeping in mind the importance of kindness, communicate your willingness to walk away from the deal (if you’re actually willing to do that). Say you’d rather buy from them than the seller across town. Appeal to their business sense.

Martin recommends two effective tactics: paying cash and buying in bulk. Retailers pay transaction fees for credit card purchases, so if you have the ability to pay cash, especially for a large purchase, they may be open to lowering their asking price. Similarly, if you’re going to buy a lot of products, they’re more likely to give you a better deal or throw in something for free.

Of course, you have to ask.

“Are you going to be able to negotiate for everything? No, but if you don’t ask, you won’t know,” Martin said.

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