Best ways to bargain your way to better prices

In today's economy, no one wants to pay top dollar.

And negotiating to get a better price can be stressful.

But there are techniques you can use to give yourself the best chance of getting some money off the prices of goods and services.

Ron Burley, a consumer advocate for AARP The Magazine and author of "Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For," offered tips on "The Early Show on Saturday Morning."

First off -- remember that you have the most power while your money is still in your pocket.

General approaches

Do Your Homework: Whether it's a car, furniture, or trip, a quick online search will give you a good ballpark view of what something is selling for. Take the lowest price you find, deduct 25 percent, and, that will be your haggling starting point.

No Moving Targets: Sellers will often try to confuse the deal with add-ons or alternate features. Ignore them. Haggling is tough enough without a moving target. The rule is -- one item, one price.

Pay Cash: If you need financing, get it elsewhere before you go to haggle. Negotiating a loan is another high art and shouldn't be mixed with trying to get the best price on something else.

Pay Attention to Your Time: If you're trying to save a few thousand dollars on a car, a couple of hours driving around to different stores isn't a huge investment. On the other hand, bouncing around town to save 20 bucks on a vacuum cleaner is rarely a cost-effective choice.

Talk to the Boss: Make sure you're talking to someone who has the authority to haggle. Low-level sales people often are "price-restricted."

Stay Calm: Speak quietly, but confidently. It's not a battle. It's a negotiation.

At Car Dealerships

They're famous for polluting the deal. Stick to a specific car and set of options that you decided on even before you went in, having researched the price. They will try as hard as they can to get you to move off that position, but don't. Tell them what you're willing to pay, and if they don't agree, hand them your phone number and tell them you're off to see their competition (use the name). But, if they want to sell a car at the price you asked (your haggling starting point), they can call you. Actually, if you get 15 percent off the lowest Web/advertised price, you've done a great job.

For Furniture and Appliances

Here's where we break the rule of "just one thing." You need to price the product and the delivery/take-away of your old stuff. Remember though -- your old furniture has value to them, particularly mattresses. You can typically get a 40 percent discount off the listed price of furniture, and 20-25 percent off appliances -- even from the big box stores. I like the cash-in-hand technique for closing the deal: Once you've said your price, lay the money out, in hundreds, right on the mattress. $100, $200, $300, etc. That works particularly well with small retailers. They just hate to see that cash literally go back into your pocket!

At Hotels and Resorts

Yes, they're negotiable, too: You just have to make sure you're speaking to the right person. Don't go to the website. Don't call the reservation line. Call the main office line and ask to speak to the on-site reservation manager. Ask their best price and then offer 30 percent less. That works especially well the closer you are to your reservation date. I recently called a resort two hours before I arrived and got a room for half-price. Why? If they didn't rent it to me, it probably would have gone empty.