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If I'm asking for a deal, I like to have a valid reason. In the case of patio furniture, it has to be a floor model, have a stain or be going out of season.

Without a good reason, I'm afraid I'll begin an awkward conversation, or worse, appear cheap. I need to get better at consistently asking for deals and you probably do too.

Only about one-quarter of shoppers try to get a better deal on a purchase, according to a recent survey by Consumer Reports. Those who step out of their comfort zone to ask are usually rewarded. More than 80 per cent of respondents who haggled over apparel or jewellery and about 70 per cent of those who haggled over appliances or electronics reported savings.

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Karen Reid Sidhu, from Vancouver B.C., says she uses the competition's prices to get her best deals. She tells her current company that another is trying to lure her away and then asks if there are any current promotions or offers that might keep her loyal. The answer, most often, is yes.

She got a refurbished PVR for free on her first ask, and a six months reduced rate on her second ask. The reduced rate saves her more than $250 a year. This approach works well for any competitive business: phone companies, gym memberships and credit cards.

Many businesses will also match a competitor's price, so search for current deals of the competition, then ask for a price match. SmartCanucks.ca, RedFlagDeals.com, or RetailMeNot.com allow you to search coupon codes quickly for online buys or promotions to use in-store.

If you have mastered the art of asking for a deal, it means you've got a strategy or a standard line you use. The go-to line for Barbara van Hove: "Is this your final price?" Ms. van Hove, who lives on Vancouver Island, first tried this line out eight years ago when buying a high-end treadmill.

The salesman dropped the price by $300, saying he would match the expired sale price. "My husband couldn't believe his ears. From that point on it's always been my line just before making a final decision on purchase." Ms. van Hove says the worst thing that can happen in this situations is that you get an answer of "Yes, this is our final price." In her mind, it is all about the approach. "I've found that it is such an inoffensive way of haggling that most salespeople really don't mind sharpening their pencils on price," she adds.

If you can't get a deal on the price tag, then ask for free add-ons, like delivery or wrapping. Even the small wins will give you momentum to ask for more in the future and save a few bucks in the process. I bought a little outfit for a birthday present at Baby Gap recently and asked if they could gift wrap the purchase. The salesman took the time to wrap it up with a beautiful bow and attach a card for me to write my note on. Sure, buying wrap and a card isn't a huge expense but saving $10 for the wrapping paper and card, as well as my time, made it worthwhile.

It can be difficult to ask for deals but as a shopper, you're out to get the best deal you can. And if you don't ask, you don't get. So don't be afraid to test out different ways of asking for reduced rates, ways that feel comfortable and work for you. You might be surprised to find out how much you can save.

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Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies money group.

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About the Author
Angela Self

Angela Self is one of the founders of the Smart Cookies, a group of five women who specialize in personal finance. They are hosts of a self-titled show on the W Network and the authors of The Smart Cookies' Guide to Making More Dough. More

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