Haggle like a true pro to save money
It might be easy to haggle over prices when in overseas souks and markets, but most of us are reluctant to quibble about the cost of goods and services back home.
Research by the online shopping company InvisibleHand shows that three quarters of us are too shy to haggle for a better price in the UK, and this is costing us an average of £220 (€255) a year.
Archna Luthra, consumer products analyst at Moneysavingexpert.com, says: "Haggling should not be reserved just for far-flung holidays. Consumers wield massive power when negotiating, and companies will often strike a deal to keep you as a customer or to clinch a sale, especially on longer-term subscription services."
Haggling at home
For first-time hagglers, the best place to start is with the household bills. Rather than negotiate discounts face-to-face with a shop assistant, this can be done over the phone, from the comfort of your own home.
Savings could be substantial: figures from Standard Life show that most adults have 11 financial commitments to be paid each month. Haggling on everything from insurance premiums to the cost of mobile, broadband and energy bills could, therefore, soon add up to hundreds of pounds in savings.
Some companies are more likely to negotiate on price than others. Research from Moneysavingexpert.com revealed that almost 80 per cent of Sky TV, broadband or home phone customers who tried to barter down costs secured a better deal, while 72 per cent of those who had tried to get a better deal from Virgin Media reported that they were successful.
Similarly, 73 per cent of AA customers who had haggled said they ended up with a cheaper deal on their breakdown cover.
Energy firms weren't as keen to offer discounts, according to the Moneysavingexpert.com site. It found only 40 per cent of customers who had tried to haggle got a better deal.
The landline provider Primus and the Post Office were among those firms least likely to offer discounts. Figures from the website show that just over 10 per cent of customers had been successful.
Haggling on the high street
Bartering for a better deal in stores has become easier thanks to mobile phone apps (applications) that allow you to compare prices before making a purchase. These devices can help you save more than 15 per cent on shopping trips, according to Kelkoo, the shopping comparison website.
A number of retailers have a "price-beater promise", which means they will match or beat any price from a competitor.
B&Q and Comet, for example, offer to beat prices at any shop within a 10-mile radius by 10 per cent. PC World offers the same price-beating policy, but covers a 30-mile radius. John Lewis's "never knowingly undersold'' policy even extends to purchases online, but bear in mind it will only consider retailers that also have a high street presence.
A number of companies now offer these apps, including PriceRunner and Kelkoo. Either of these can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, or the Google Android Marketplace, depending on your make of phone.
To search for products, just type the name of the item you are looking for into the search bar at the top of the page and hit "search''. You will then have the option to filter the results. Some apps, such as Red Laser for the iPhone, will require you to scan the bar code with your phone to check the price.
For example, if you searched for a Siemens washing machine (model WM12P360GB) while shopping at Comet, where it is priced at £542, a Kelkoo search would show it on offer at John Lewis for just £499. As Comet promises to beat the price of shops nearby by 10 per cent, it would then offer the washing machine at the relevant discount and you would save £48.
Alternatively, if you were shopping for a Sony Vaio 15.5in laptop at PC World, priced at £479, a browse through Kelkoo would show it on offer at John Lewis for just £419. As PC World promises to beat the price of high street competitors, the saving would be at least £60.
For shoppers who do not have internet access on their mobile phone, Sccope (www.sccope.com) provides a text message price comparison service. This is free of charge: the only fee comes from your service provider for sending the text.
With no need to register, you just text the name or model number of the product you are looking for to 62555, and Sccope will send you a reply with a list of possible matches, or a list of alternative shops and prices.