5 ways to negotiate almost anything in life except death and taxes

Be willing to walk away


Don’t have the colour you want? The size? The style? The model? The right price?

Walk away.

Easier said than done (trust me), but very effective.

I saw a great necklace when I was in NYC. Blue, chunky, really weird and interesting at the same time. It was $27 USD, but it also came with earrings.

I went to the counter and asked if I could buy the necklace separately (if they were an independent store and REALLY wanted to sell something, especially in this recession they should have said: YES! No problem.)

Instead, the storeowners said “No. It comes with the earrings FOR FREE!. You can wear them!

These people were just like my dad when he worked. Always out to get you to spend more money than you want to, and to angle things differently so that you think of the purchase differently (Wow now that you mention it, the earrings ARE FREE! Right. *snort*)

FB: I don’t wear earrings. I don’t have pierced ears, I need clip ons.

Owner: *undeterred* But you can give them away to a friend!

FB: How nice. But what I’m really asking for, is a reduction in the price. A discount if I just buy the necklace.

Owner: No. No discount *glare*. The earrings are free.

FB: Actually, they’re not. If they were free, they’d be an option to purchase and not included in the package. I’m paying for those earrings in that $27 USD price tag.

Owner: So are you taking them?

FB: No. Not if you’re not going to knock money off the price for buying just the necklace.

Owner: No! They are free earrings!

FB: Fine. *walks away*

Owner: Wait! Where are you going?

FB: You don’t want to sell anything. I’ll keep my money, and you keep your necklace and earrings.

Sure, that’s a kind of lame example, but that’s how I act in all situations.

I’m not trying to be rude, or unfair and cheat them out of a livelihood, but I wanted them to give me a discount, keep the (very nice) earrings and let me just buy the necklace.

If they really wanted to sell you something they’d find the way.

Besides, they could’ve even just given me $3 off, stacked them on the shelf, priced them at $6, having sold the necklace for the bulk of the price, which more than covers the cost of the necklace + earring set.

To me, that was just bad business to not even be open for discussion.

It was easier with a necklace by the way, than with a car or a home where you have more emotionally invested in it.

But what I always say to myself and remember is that there are thousands of necklaces in the world. I am bound to find something else I’ll like, from a seller who is willing to sell to me.

You can always negotiate something and if not, it never hurts to ask

A 10% discount in stores, there’s a slight scratch on the shoes, you get $5 off, or a free polishing. If you aren’t happy with your drink, you can get a free coupon for a free drink the next time you go out.

Or maybe, 25% off your next purchase because you weren’t thrilled with the service this time around.

Just ask. It never hurts to ask.

Don’t be the first to offer a price

This works especially well in job interviews.

Don’t offer them what you are currently making or asking for because it may end up not only being too LOW (and then they have big Cheshire grins on their faces and accept immediately), but it may also end up being too HIGH and pricing you right out of the pool of candidates (true story).

Sentences to stall them:

  • “Let’s talk about the job some more, and my qualifications and fit before we talk about the money.”
  • “Well tell me what are you offering and I’ll let you know if it’s what I expected.” (this can end up being a round robin thing, where you 2 beat around the bush)

Be patient, and refuse to give a number. They want you, they’ll tell you what they think the job is worth.

And if they are already asking about salary, they may have already have you as the shoo-in perfect fit for the job so you have a bit of an edge.

FORCE THEM to give YOU what they think your job is worth.

If it isn’t close (by $20,000 is what I consider close) to what you were expecting, decide the pros and cons (quickly) about whether or not it’s worth it to take the offer (are you unemployed and desperate?) and then decide how much more to ask for.

You may end up surprising yourself because it may be exactly what they had expected you to say, and if you didn’t ask for more money or a free perk (or even a discount), and they’ll be surprised they’re getting such a deal — You.

With respect to your career, it’s true, you could negotiate for a higher salary later, but you’re missing out on a year’s worth of extra income.

Which brings me to my next point…..

Try negotiating up to 10%

So if you want to ask for more money and be careful not to pigeonhole yourself and only ask for money.

Sentences you may want to use to weasel more out of them:

  • “Based on my research, I was expecting $$$$$ instead for my skill set, is that the best you can do?”
  • “The salary is fine, if we could talk about changing the benefits. How about that salary, and an extra week of vacation?”
  • “That is a bit on the low side from what I researched. Make it $$$[insert decent increase here that is reasonable and not $100k]$$$ and I’ll accept”
  • “Is that the best you can do?”

But let’s not just focus on job, this 10% rule is especially true in buying homes and actually.. anything in retail except very low margin items.

For real estate, most homeowners are willing to negotiate down 10% just to sell the home. Any more, and they really feel insulted and ripped off.

$300,000 home? Offer $270,000 and work from there.

This however, will not work in a hot market where it’s a seller’s market, or in very in-demand areas like NYC, SF, Vancouver, London England…

Paying in cash speaks louder than credit

Not just for your financial health, but if you pay in cash, people give you a discount because they don’t have to use the machine to swipe your card, wait, take the time to punch in everything and then get charged for the privilege of using that machine!

The hassle is avoided with cash.

Not only that, returns are easily made when you paid in cash – you just get the cash back instead of having to monitor your credit card for the correct amount refunded, in a timely manner, and so on.


Those are my top 5 favourite tips. There are plenty more, but these ones are tried and true.

With a little practice, it’ll become easier and easier to ask for things. It’s hard at first, but worth it once you get over this ingrained shame of asking for a deal because you don’t want to come off as being poor.

Now, I should mention that there is a difference between being poor and being miserly.

Don’t rip a shirt sleeve with the intention of repairing it later (or rip off a button) just to get a discount. That is cheating to me. But if the button was already coming off, then ask for a little discount in return for your having to repair the button at home.

Display items are usually good for discounts. Anything below 10% for items below $100 is not really worth it. You can get big savings if it’s $1000 or more, but really — consider that display items are constantly abused (like laptops on display being banged on by little kids and adults alike), so use your judgment wisely here as to what you are buying.

Don’t try and ask for a discount on $1 if you don’t really care, nor should you at any point, make the person feel bad for not giving you a discount — maybe they really can’t afford it, no matter how prosperous they seem to you.

Stay calm. Stay polite. Don’t cheat anyone. And be willing to walk away (Golden Rule #1).

Any other favourite negotiating tips?

About the Author

Just a girl trying to find a balance between being a Shopaholic and a Saver. I cleared $60,000 in 18 months earning $65,000 gross/year. Now I am self-employed, and you can read more about my story here, or visit my other blog: The Everyday Minimalist.