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How to Get a Discount, Haggle-Free

4 Minute ReadTopic: budget

When you're on a budget, every penny counts. But it’s not always clear how to get a discount while shopping. Even if you muster up the courage, how do you ask without offending anyone or looking foolish?

We get it. But that’s no excuse to spend more than you have to, especially if your budget is already squeezed.

To help, here’s a simple cheat sheet covering the basics of when, where and how to get a discount—no haggling necessary.

1. Damaged Goods

You finally found a pair of jeans that fit, but then you notice a small rip in the seam. You’re in luck! This minor sewing repair could land you 20–25% off the sticker price.

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How to ask: Be sure to explain how much you like the item before pointing out the flaw. This makes you look genuinely interested, not like a cheapskate. Then ask if the store offers a percentage off for damaged goods. If the sales clerk isn’t sure, politely push them to ask a manager.

2. Prescription Drugs

If you don’t have prescription drug coverage, or if your coverage isn’t great, your doctor may be able to give you free samples until your condition clears up or until you can save up for your treatment. 

How to ask: Call or visit your pharmacy to find out the price of your prescription. If it’s more than you can afford, get in touch with your doctor or nurse. If they don’t have that exact sample on hand, ask if there’s a similar drug you could try first.

3. Military or Government

If you’re a service member, veteran or a government employee, you can usually get at least 10% off when booking travel or simply shopping for everyday items.

How to ask: Don’t expect hotel chains or mega retailers to advertise these discounts—they’d rather everyone pay full price. But get in the habit of mentioning your government affiliation before you check out. And have your ID handy in case they need verification.

4. Membership Clubs

As a perk of your membership, clubs like Costco and AAA often have deals worked out with everyone from car repair shops to florists. So do some research before you buy.

How to ask: First, visit your particular club’s website to check for participating vendors. Then double-check the advertised discount with the sales clerk at the time of your order (as well as at checkout). They may ask for your card number to process the transaction, so have it ready.

5. Medical Bills

We’ve all been overcharged on a medical bill or two. It happens. So before you ask for a discount, carefully scan your bill for double charges or unfamiliar procedures. If it looks right, then see about that discount.

How to ask: When you call the billing department, write down your representative’s name and use it! This keeps the conversation friendly and positive. If the person on the other end of the line seems reluctant to help, ask about a reduced rate for paying in full or for making larger payments. Your eagerness (and kind attitude) may entice them to help.

6. Gym Membership

If you’re having trouble paying your health club bill, don’t quit (especially during the winter months). Your gym may be able to provide a temporary discount if you’re already a loyal customer. If they can’t do anything, consider switching gyms and locking in a reduced rate as a new member.

How to ask: Describe how much you love the facility, but that you just can’t afford the membership dues right now. Ask if they can offer a lower monthly price until you’re back on your feet. It also helps to mention a specific cutoff date for this discount. That way, they know you’ll be paying full price again in the future.

7. Craigslist Purchases

Don’t insult the seller with a low-ball bid, but don’t feel bad about offering less either. This is stuff they don’t want anyway, remember? Your potential savings is worth a quick email.

How to ask: When you contact the seller, make it clear you’re interested in the item but that it’s more than your budget allows. Don’t haggle. Just name your price and then either accept or decline their return offer. If it’s still not in the budget, say no thanks. Something else will pop up in a week or two.

Whenever possible, request a discount—and be polite in the process. A little question could end up saving you big bucks. But you have to ask!

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