There's a difference between finding discounts, and making discounts. Anyone can take advantage of a coupon or a sale, but fewer people are willing to haggle to create savings.
We love sales and mark-downs and while they can save us money they can actually cost us money too. Everyone has a story about buying something they weren't actively looking for just because it was heavily discounted. Or perhaps it merely had the appearance of a heavy discount. Just look in your kitchen for any infomercial appliances. They're the ones at the back of the deepest cupboards.
A big sale on stuff you weren't going to buy in the first place is no savings at all.
On the other hand, if you were able to create a discount on something you were planning on buying, that can indeed count as bona fide savings.
Some people exhibit trepidation when faced with the prospect of initiating a negotiation. Others show no such hesitation.
A friend of mine came home to find his neighbour's lawn being cut by a landscaping company. As the crew was packing up, he asked how much it cost for their services. He then asked if both he and the neighbour could get a 10 per cent discount if they both had their lawns cut by them. Since the time and fuel costs between clients was reduced to zero, they agreed.
When I bought my last car, after bringing down the price as low as the salesperson was willing to go, I asked if there were any other ways to sweeten the deal. He offered three years of oil changes and some floor mats. That worked out to almost $1,000 in services and products, for something I had already planned on buying.
If the thought of bargaining intimidates you, it might be easier to have a rationale for what you think a fair price is. Sometimes that rationale can be found through a service like CarCostCanada.com which provides wholesale pricing and incentive information on various vehicles for a fee. Other times, you can arrive at an educated guess by researching similar products or services. Spend some time reading sites like RedFlagDeals.com or CanadianMoneyForum.com for insight from other savvy shoppers.
If you're still uncomfortable trying to create your own savings, have someone else do the haggling for you. Almost everyone has a friend who genuinely loves engaging in the negotiation dance. And there are people you can pay to get you a better deal. Take mortgage brokers for example. They keep on top of the best rates and can often find you savings even after factoring their cost.
Wayne Gretzky once said, "You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don't take." So get into the habit of asking for a better deal. The worst case scenario is that they say no. But every now and then, you might just score a better deal.
Preet Banerjee, a personal finance expert, is the host of Million Dollar Neighbourhood on The Oprah Winfrey Network. You can read his blog at WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com and follow him on Twitter at @preetbanerjee.