It’s high time to haggle!

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The fun fair at Clarence Pier in Southsea.  Picture: Sarah Standing (160944-6733) PPP-160725-173455001

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With rising living costs expected to add to the strain on people’s budgets in the coming months, 2017 may be a year when brushing up on your bargaining skills becomes particularly important.

Inflation jumped to a two and-a-half year high in December, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures.

And upward price pressures could make it harder for some households to tick everything off their shopping lists.

Many shops still have their post-Christmas sales on, but even if the item you want to buy doesn’t come with a discount, there may be other ways to shave money off the price.

While the idea of walking into a shop and haggling may fill some people with dread, with a little preparation beforehand, you could increase your chances of getting a bargain.

James Walker, founder of Resolver.co.uk, a free service that helps people with complaints, says: “It might seem at first that it’s much harder to haggle for a decent discount today than it was in previous years.

“But have no doubt about it, there’s a war going on between the high street and their new online competitors, and it’s becoming increasingly brutal.”

Here are some tips from Walker on how to bag a bargain:

:: Don’t give up at the first hurdle. Once you’ve got over being turned down, it’s so much easier to try again. After all, you’re unlikely to see the sales assistant again.

:: Think about your plan of action. The big department stores and “brand” boutiques often have a “no discount” policy - and it’s pre-programmed in to the tills. Discounts are possible, but don’t waste too much time talking to sales assistants who don’t have the power to deliver the reductions. Look for the floor managers and target them.

:: Don’t overdo it. Having a cover story to explain why you want a discount is all well and good, but don’t waffle on too long. Explain that you’re pushed for time and you need a quick decision, or you’re only around that day.

:: Don’t be afraid to walk away. Point out that you’ve seen a reduction in a rival shop and if they turn you down, politely say you’re disappointed, but you understand. Swing by 15 minutes later and browse. The assistant may have spoken to a senior colleague and could offer you a deal.

:: Go independent. You could be far more likely to get a discount from an independent shop or one that provides goods from a range of brands. Point out similar shops and mention they’ve offered to meet your ideal price.

:: Be a shop tease: If you’re after a big discount, be enthusiastic about the product when you first go in - then explain you need to think about it. Shop assistants know that you’re less likely to make a purchase when you’re out of the shop and weighing things up. So, if you pop back in shortly after, they may be more willing to drop their prices to get a sale. Make sure you check online to find a retailer with a better offer.

:: Less can be more when trying to negotiate a discount. Make it clear you’re willing to spend - but only if the shop can offer you what you want, otherwise you will go elsewhere.

:: Leave a pregnant pause after you’ve asked for a discount. It might feel uncomfortable, but it makes it harder for the other person to say something that isn’t positive.

You can also try negotiating discounts from the comfort of your own armchair. A survey from MoneySavingExpert.com in 2016 found more than three-quarters of people who had tried to haggle with a big-name service provider in the previous year had been successful.

So if you’re nearing the end of a contract, now could be the time to check if you could be better off elsewhere and put those haggling skills to the test.

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