The five secrets to saving money on almost anything

Senior couple getting financial advice from consultant at home

There are some bargains that shopping around can't get you. Of course, the power of checking the market for the best possible deal shouldn't be underestimated, and could save us all thousands of pounds a year on everything from jam to car insurance. However, if you want to save even more money, you need to learn the five secrets of saving on the advertised price.
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1. Take it on

It's easy to assume that the price of everything from a holiday to a TV package is non-negotiable, and that if you try to haggle you'll just embarrass yourself. However, this is far from the case, and even people with a real aversion to confrontation can save money, simply by calling.

If you hate haggling, then at the very least you should shop around for a better deal, and then call your current provider to cancel your contract. This will get you through to the department in charge of discounting in order to keep customers.

When they ask why you are leaving, let them know why - and what their competitor is offering. Then say 'can you beat that price?' You don't have to push, or argue, or do anything clever, and you'll be shocked at the number of times they will offer you something better.

2. Research

If you are prepared to do more than push on an open door, you can save even more. However, before you get anywhere near a negotiation, you need to do your background research. According to expert negotiators at Huthwaite International, if you're not confident about negotiating, you'll fail in four out of five attempts.

The best way to build confidence is to know your stuff. If, for example, you want a car company to offer you a better price, then you're going to be much more confident telling them that you've seen one in another forecourt for a specific price, than you are going in with no idea whether or not it's cheaper elsewhere.

3. Be nice

First and foremost, don't demand or try to intimidate. The aim is to get the person to want to help you, so pay attention to your attitude - and be nice to the salesperson.

Attitude can be enough when you're dealing with a faceless individual within a huge organisation. However, when you are dealing with a smaller business or a local, consider what's in it for the other person.

Tony Hughes, CEO, Huthwaite International says: "Being confident and having power during negotiations, doesn't mean going in there all guns blazing, with a focus only on what they want to get out of it. Our advice is to be confident but not aggressive. Try to strike the right balance with your negotiation partner."

Consider what you can offer in exchange for a deal. Would a good deal mean you will shop there again? Will you recommend it to your friends? Will it mean you are able to buy more in this instance? They're not going to give you a good deal just because you demand one, so try to build a scenario where a deal suits everyone.

4. Prepare to be persistent

It's worth preparing a few handy phrases, so you have something to come back with if the haggling isn't going to plan. Start with something straightforward like: "The most I can possibly pay is £xx". If they ask for more, you can come back with phrases like: "That's going to leave me a bit short, is there any thing else you can do?" or "My wife/husband will never let me pay that much, can you do it for less?"

If you hit a brick wall, and the price is still too high, you can say something like: "That's still much more than I was expecting, I'll need to think about it." Then you can walk away, regroup, decide whether you want to go elsewhere, or come back and try with another salesperson on another day.

5. Take your time

Don't be in a rush to counter-offer. Hughes says strong negotiators actually make fewer counter offers. If you can bear it, you can stay silent and hope they fill the gap with a better offer. If you can't, then you can reiterate what you are offering. Something along the lines of "So my top budget is £xx, and if you can offer me that deal, I'll be buying all my items from here in future." Then it's their turn.

Every so-often you'll come up against a brick wall. However, if you are prepared to stick with it, then you can easily save on almost everything you buy.

But what do you think? Are you prepared to haggle? And what are the best savings you've made through clever negotiation? Let us know in the comments.

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The five secrets to saving money on almost anything

The wine world is notoriously snobby, and the experts will tell you that there’s no way to buy a good bottle without spending at least £25. However, a study in 2011 at the Edinburgh International Science Fair demonstrated that people could only tell the difference between a cheap and expensive wine 53% of the time - which is roughly the result you'd get from flipping a coin.

Instead of focusing on price, it’s worth looking for wine awards. In December last year, for example, the International Wine Challenge awarded silver medals to Tesco Finest Fiano (selling for £5.49) and the Tesco Finest Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (priced at £5.99).

The price you’ll pay for your hotel room depends partly on type of room you choose, but also on a host of things that have nothing at all to do with the room itself. If you shop carefully, therefore, you can get more for less.

One of the most effective approaches is to use a ‘secret hotels’ service, which gives you details of the location and facilities, but doesn't tell you the name of the hotel you are booking until you have paid.

This enables hotels to slash their prices by as much as 50% without damaging their brand. If you book this way you can easily get a junior suite for less than the advertised double room rate at the same hotel.

Logically, the longer the interest-free period on your credit card, the more you’ll save. However, it doesn't always work out that way.

If you need to borrow for exactly the length of the interest-free period, then it’s a great option, but if you need to borrow for a longer or shorter time, it's a waste of money.

You have roughly a 40% chance of being tempted by the longer interest-free period into failing to pay off the debt in time - and being hit with high interest charges. In this instance, you may be better off with a long-term low rate.

Meanwhile, if you are one of the third of people who tend to pay off their card early, then you'd be better off paying a smaller balance transfer fee for a card with a shorter interest-free period.

If you need to buy new clothes, then choosing a product that has done minimal damage to the environment is clearly a kinder option than buying from a manufacturer that doesn't care about its impact on the world.

However, you will usually pay more for an environmentally-friendly brand, and there’s a far cheaper option that’s even kinder to the environment: buying second-hand clothes.

Your local charity shops will have items in perfect condition that would otherwise be going to landfill, so by buying them you meet three great criteria: you're saving the planet, saving money and helping a good cause.

You can pay anything up to 1,000 times more for water in a bottle than from the tap, so it stands to reason that it must be better.

However, instead of necessarily paying for superior water, we're paying for bottles, transportation and marketing, which might not be the kind of thing you value

On average we drink 33 litres of bottled water every year, and at an average cost of 48p per bottle, that's almost £16. You have to ask yourself if it's worth it.

Your expensive fashion headphones may look cool, but if you look around among the professionals, they won’t be wearing them.

The very best of the professional headphones cost the earth, so they're not a money-saving option. However, if you set a budget and check out the gadget magazines for their recommendations in your price range, not one of them recommends the fashion brands.

Instead of paying for branding, it's worth doing your research and paying for better sound.

We're loyal to brands for two reasons when it comes to medicines. The first is that they advertise, and they don’t mention the name of the active ingredient, so if we have a specific problem, all we know to ask for is the brand.

The second is a matter of trust, because we know the brand, and we can see it costs many times more than the generic versions of the same thing, so we trust that it is better.

In reality, the active ingredients are exactly the same, and if you don't know the generic drug that you can substitute for your expensive brand, you can simply ask your pharmacist - and look forward to spending a fraction of the amount your usual brand name medicines will set you back.

Pedigree pets are incredibly expensive. Even common breeds like springer spaniels will cost you several hundred pounds, while rarer breeds can set you back thousands.

It’s easy to assume you are paying for a well-bred pet, which will be free from medical problems. However, the breeding process means that pedigree pets tend to be prone to far more medical issues - which end up costing a fortune.

A mongrel dog or a moggy will often rack up far fewer vets bills, and there are usually an enormous number looking for new homes at the local rescue centre.

There’s an enormous advertising industry, pouring huge resources into convincing us that the more expensive beauty products are the best. In some cases this may be true, but it’s also worth keeping your eyes open for the cut-price beauty products recommended by the experts and winning awards.

A couple of examples stand out from recent coverage, including Boots Protect & Perfect for £23.95, which was so hotly tipped that it had a waiting list before its release in May last year. An even more affordable option is the £1.69 Bottle O’Butter moisturiser, which flew off the shelves thanks to an endorsement from the beauty press a while back.

Often in the mobile market, the more you pay, the more you get. So if you want a flash phone, all you can eat data, oodles of airtime and endless texts, you'll pay through the nose. The question you really need to ask yourself is whether you need all of this.

It’s worth checking your statements each month, and going back to look at them for the duration of your contract. Check your average use, then look at any extra you would have paid for the months when you went over this. In most cases, those who are paying for the very biggest mobile packages could save substantially by downshifting.

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