The fine art of haggling

Image by Steve & Jemma Copley

Most of us agree on that the economy is in a bit of a mess, and so we all have to make our own cutbacks if we can. But equally, shops and suppliers are extra keen too for our custom– and with Christmas on the way, there could be room for some give and take.

This where the art of haggling comes in – you may think it's merely the preserve of the Moroccan souk or the match-day ticket tout, but it may just save you some cash right now.

Here are five tips that may help with getting the price down in your Christmas season shopping:

Everything is negotiable

There isn't a lot that cannot be discounted, but it's up to you to persuade them to do it. Your aim is not to 'blink first' – the chance that you'll walk away and end the deal is enough to give you the lead in any bargaining position, so make them make you the offer. This could work well in commission-led shops, such as electronics or furnishings.

Don't settle for basics

If you don't feel up to an outright tug-of-war over the price, there's always the extras to think about. Buying a laptop? Well what about the warranty? Batteries? A carry-bag? Let them know – politely - that you're about to shell out a lot of money and it wouldn't hurt if they sweetened the pill for you – and after all, if they think they'll get a satisfied customer who might tell their friends, then it's all worthwhile for them too.

Research the market

Perhaps you could go online and use comparison sites to find out the optimum low price you want to be paying, and then hunt down any special offers you can find. Armed with this information, you could then go into your chosen store knowing how much they'll have to lower it to if they want your custom.

Play them off each other

In areas or streets where there is a high density of shops selling the same thing, eg: computers, jewellery, you might want to go in and out of shops quoting what they have offered you and trying to get it lower and lower.

Don't be afraid to ask

Finally remember that you have nothing to lose, as all shops/providers ultimately want your custom. If you're in a major department store, it doesn't hurt to ask for free delivery. If you're after a broadband deal, it doesn't hurt to ask for a free wireless router. What's the worst that can happen?

Some tips to manage your credit over the Christmas period

When to apply: Check your credit rating before you apply for a new store card or credit card. This will give you a better chance of understanding whether you are likely to be accepted. A 30-day free trial of Experian Credit Expert (New members only. Monthly fee applies after free trial. Free trial period starts on registration – further ID verification may be required to access full service, which may take up to five days.) could help tell you what factors are affecting your rating, positively and negatively, and can help you improve it. If you check early you may have time to improve things before Christmas, or perhaps ahead of the sales.

Careful with your cards: They are of course a good way to spread your payments, but make sure you can afford to pay off what you put on them. Whatever you do, never miss a payment – they stay on your credit report for six years.

Know what's going on: How are you supposed to know whether you can afford to make a credit card repayment if you don't know how much you've spent, how much you have to pay, and what payments you should be expecting to come out of your account this month? The easiest way to keep on top of these facts is by using free money management software, like Money Dashboard, and adding all of your accounts.

Avoid a rejection spiral: If you apply for a credit card and are declined, it's best not to apply for another one straightaway - find out why you weren't successful. Lenders could view repeated applications as a sign that you are struggling with your finances and might be a high risk.

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