How I saved $200 by haggling

Last weekend my fiancé and I went wedding suit shopping. Planning a wedding is one of the most time-intensive and detail-oriented projects I’ve ever undertaken. I keep telling everyone that even if I wanted to call it off, I wouldn’t just so I could see what all my hard work has done.

A few Fridays ago we went to find a suit for my fiancé. I learned more about men’s clothing in 2 hours than I have in 26 years. Apparently women’s magazines don’t teach you the difference between lapels.

After a few hours of shopping, we headed to J. Crew. I generally avoid the store, since I both love their clothes and know I can’t afford them. But I had heard that they had slim-fitting suits my fiancé might like, so we headed in.

Within a few minutes, he’d found the suit he’d been looking for. I was so happy that we could cross off one more thing off our wedding to-do list. Until I looked at the sticker price. Holy God, that suit cost more than our rent. Combined.

But the suit fit my fiancé and after a few hours of shopping, we decided not to risk letting it go. So I put my haggling skills to use. I wanted to get the suit, but I also wasn’t prepared to pay regular price for it.

1. Be polite

When you’re negotiating, it’s important to remember that as much as the cashier wants to make the sale, they don’t owe you anything. So be nice. Don’t threaten them and don’t ask for their supervisor. Usually, they want to help you out. Be friendly and chatty and explain how much you like the item. And for god’s sake, don’t insult the store. Don’t call it overpriced. You can say how much you want the item, but it’s out of your budget. Most people in retail understand that their store’s prices might not fit every wallet.

2. Say thank you

It’s a simple thing, but I’ve been accused before of not being grateful, so I always try to say “thank you” to someone who’s trying to get me a good deal. Unless they’re being paid on commission or their manager is watching, it usually doesn’t matter too much to them to go out of their way to find you a good price. And if it works, I try to send a note to their corporate office and post something public on Twitter – that way, the salesperson involved gets a thank you from the higher-ups.

3. Just ask

When we were looking at the suit, I asked the cashier, “Are there any sales going on now?” “Well, the store is 30% off…except for suits.” “Are there any other deals we can get?” I asked. “You can sign up for a store credit card and get 15% off.” Done. I think some people feel uncomfortable asking for a deal, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

I know a lot of bloggers and personal finance experts say you shouldn’t sign up for store credit cards, but when there’s a deal like this, I have to take advantage of it. My credit score is in the 700s and I’m not looking to buy a house soon.

I also asked the cashier if he could apply the discount for the pants, which I wanted to order online since my fiancé’s size wasn’t in stock. After I paid for the suit, he handed me a $20 off $100 coupon. “Can I use this along with the 30% off on the pants?” Sure, he said. He then helped me order the pants online for free and gave me expedited shipping. I then asked if there would be any better deals around Christmas – if there were, he told me to come back then and he’d adjust the receipt for me. Win win!

4. Find common ground

When I told the manager my address, he said that he used to live in my neighborhood. We started chatting and while I’m not sure having something in common is the reason he gave me such a good deal, it never helps to relate to the salesman. Be friendly though, not fake.

Haggling with a store clerk isn’t easy for a lot of people. You have to be polite and firm, and I always find a little self-deprecating humor works. Acknowledge the work that the salesperson is doing and make sure to thank them profusely. In the end, it helped me save more than $200 off an amazing suit.

Have you ever haggled down a price? Do you always ask for an extra discount? Share what’s worked for you!

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