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How to Negotiate Anything

Haggle Your Way to Big Savings

Negotiation is a powerful skill that we use every day of our lives. Whether we’re begging mom to buy us more candy at the drugstore or bent on leasing a posh Manhattan loft, we could all use a little help now and then when it comes to asking for what we want.

The good news is that negotiating, like everything, gets easier with practice. So if it’s a vintage frock, a new pair of shoes, an apartment, a house, a lower APR or cable bill you’re after, MainStreet has the tricks to help you ask for what you want. Read on to learn how to haggle like a pro.

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Haggle a Home


Looking for new digs and want to stay a while? It might be time to buy a new home.

If you have the means and already found your dream home, let these tips be your golden rule for success:

1.  Get pre-approved. A pre-approved mortgage tells the home’s current owner you’re financially able to buy and also gives you a glimpse of future mortgage payments. Added bonus: You’ll find out the maximum mortgage for which you may qualify.

2.  Find a trustworthy broker. Ask for credentials from whomever you’re looking to work with and make sure it’s a person whose goals align with your own.

3.  Don’t take it personally. Look at the home buying process as any other business transaction and don’t be afraid to walk away if the terms aren’t up to snuff. Set clear expectations for what you’re willing to spend and make sure your broker respects them.

Learn more about these negotiating tips for buying a new home on MainStreet.

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Ask for a Raise

Want a bigger paycheck? According to a recent CareerBuilder survey, now might be the time to ask for it.

Before you start rehearsing your “give me a raise” speech, though, keep in mind these tips outlined by MainStreet’s Jeanine Skowronski:

Know your worth. “Do some research,” Skowronski writes. “This will not only provide a good bargaining chip should your salary, in fact, be below market value, but it will also prevent you from bringing an unrealistic number to the table when you meet with your employer.”

Quantify your worth. Document your achievements, projects completed and accolades received. All of these will you help build your case for an increase in pay.

Be persistent. If at first you don’t succeed, try again—and again after that. Just because you were passed up for a raise this time around, doesn’t mean it won’t happen the next time. Ask your boss what you can improve upon and then get to work doing it.

Learn more about how to get the salary you want on MainStreet.

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Buy Second-Hand

Buying second-hand goods came into vogue in recent years thanks to the Great Recession, but not every item is worth what’s on the price tag. You’ll have to bargain for the price you want and be willing to walk away.

Second-hand buyers should follow these expert tips:

Show your enthusiasm. That “can make good rapport with the seller,” writes MainStreet reporter Matt Brownell, and this “is your best starting point for haggling.”

Carry small bills. If you can convince the seller that you’re cash-strapped, he may feel forced to make the sale for a lower price.

Don’t bid against yourself. Don’t set the price; leave that to the seller. “You may very well be offering more than the seller planned to ask, or you risk insulting them with a ridiculously low bid,” writes Brownell. This will also help avoid a guilty conscience if you wind up paying far less.

For negotiating tips for selling your second-hand items, read on.

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Sell Second-Hand

For second-hand swappers on the other end of the table, haggle your way to big bucks with these tips:

Get paid upfront. “Never, ever ship an order before you receive payment,” says Afiya Webb, who sells vintage accessories on Etsy.com. If you’re at a yard sale, watch out for fake cashiers’ checks, money orders and counterfeit cash. To avoid the latter, never accept big bills unless you have a counterfeit marker to check them.

Spread the word. Publicize your sale using social media tools and ad sites like weekendtreasure.com, garagesalehunter.com and yardsalesearch.com. Traditional methods work, too, so get busy with printing and posting those fliers around your community.

Learn more secrets to buying and selling second-hand items on MainStreet.

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Buy Luxury on the Cheap

The key to shopping luxury sales, writes Skowronski, isn’t just knowing when they happen, but knowing who’s behind the counter. “To ensure you get to spend some face time with an associate, shop at your favorite store during off-peak hours,” ideally before 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

And “once you befriend a staff member, don’t be afraid to ask for discounts, including the ones that aren’t advertised,” Skowronski adds. You can always ask for a better price, and chances are, you’ll get it or at least find out where to find it.

Get more insider tips for shopping luxury sales on MainStreet.

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Lower Your Rent

Yes it can be done, and with more apartment rentals on the rise, now’s the time to talk to your landlord. Follow these tips:

Know what your landlord knows. This means doing your research to find out what other units in your neighborhood are going for by checking other vacancies, talking to tenants and sleuthing online.

Ask for a “quick payment” discount. Landlords usually want their money, and they want it as soon as possible. Tell your landlord you’ll send him or her the check before the last day of the month and ask for a 2% discount in return.

Make the weather your ally. Renew your lease in the cold weather months, when fewer people are likely to move and landlords are desperate to fill vacancies.

Get more tips to lower your rent in MainStreet’s real estate section.

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Cut Your Cable Bill

If your monthly cable bill is starting to look more like rent, take charge and follow these rules:

Ask for a better deal and be creative about it. Blame the recession, your personal finances, your day job as a CIA agent … whatever proves you need to pay less, not more.

Call their bluff. Threaten to take your business elsewhere, or shut off the service altogether. It helps to know the pricing of competitors that serve your area.

Ask for add-ons. If paying less money can’t buy your love, then maybe a free month of Showtime or HBO will. Don’t hesitate to ask for it.

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Travel First Class

Ah, the joys of flying the friendly skies. We have to admit it’s much better in first class, so here’s how to finagle your way there: Look the part. “Dress smart and arrive as late as you can,” writes LifeHacker, “then tell the airline it is because of a terrible experience you had with their competitor. Sometimes if they think they have the business of a frequent flyer from another carrier, they might put you in first class, space permitted, since you are in an emotional state.”Or … Show up 24 hours before your flight checks in. Find out if any first-class tickets are left, as this is the time airplanes will try to sell what they can, even at a discount, according to ABC News.

Sneak into first class with these additional tips. Just be prepared to fake your engagement.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Buy a Car


Be a savvy car shopper by not falling prey to car dealers’ shady schemes. When you look for a new set of wheels, remember to do the following:

Shop around. Mother was right: It’s best to try different dealers to avoid winding up with a worse version of that hot ride you eyed on the lot.

Skip rebates. These are offered through the manufacturer, not the dealer, so tune him out when he says you’re getting a great deal on the car with the rebate. Trust us, you aren’t.

Finalize everything. It only takes 15 minutes for a salesperson to figure out whether you qualify for a loan. Before you get saddled with a ride you can’t afford, have the dealer do his (and your) homework. Some shady dealers may also try to trick you into signing up for a lease since many consumers often feel more justified making smaller payments for a big purchase over time. Don’t fall for this trick by sticking to your price range.

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Lower Your Credit Card’s APR

Dr. Mary Ann Campbell, a certified financial planner and spokesperson for IndexCreditCards.com, says the onus is on you if you want to lower your credit card terms.

Here’s what to ask when you get on the phone with your credit provider:

Be responsible. Of course this entails making every payment on time, all the time, and knowing your credit score, says Campbell. Doing so gives you leverage when you ask for a higher credit limit, a changed due date and/or a waived annual fee (depending on the perks and rewards you currently receive). Some ways to be responsible include: under 50% credit utilization, having a limited number of credit cards, and reading and knowing the terms and conditions of your credit card.

If you haven’t been responsible, ask your provider to waive your late fee. “Ask nicely, and they can see in the computer that this was a snafu to be late, and not at all chronic,” says Campbell.

For a great script that will help you cut down your APR, we recommend the one outlined in Ramit Sethi’s I Will Teach You to Be Rich, which you can view for free here.

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