1. Know the rough priceBefore you go shopping, it's important to have a rough idea of what you should be paying. This will help you figure out how badly a vendor is trying to gouge you, and will also stop you from demanding unrealistically low prices. The best sources for this information are locals (billingual hotel clerks are my favourite) and fixed price shops which will always be slightly more expensive than bargain-friendly markets.
2. Know your own limitDecide how much you're prepared to spend on a particular item before you start haggling, and stick to it. Shopkeepers have had plenty of experience in coaxing buyers to part with far more cash than they intended. Don't be taken in.
3. Be cool and don't be desperateDon't get to excited about an item, even if you really want it. The moment you show great interest in something, the shopkeeper will tack anywhere from 10% to 100% onto the price. Of course if you really need something that the vendor has, a unique sample of a local handicraft for example, then you're going to have to pay a premium since you can't afford to have the shopkeeper refuse your final offer and turn away.
4. Don't make the first moveThe opening 'move' when bargaining is the starting price. Let the vendor make the first two to three offers before giving your counter-offer. This is often difficult as the vendor will be pressuring you for a price. Just keep refusing his price and saying "No, that's too high. What is your lowest price?".
5. Start really lowWhether you start at one-half or one-thousandth of their price depends on how badly they are trying to gouge you (see Tip 1) but don't be embarassed to quote an extremely low figure; I once bargained a $25 item down to $0.40.
6. The vendor's responseOnce you've made your offer, the vendor will either laugh at you or continue haggling. If he/she does laugh, just walk away. You will invariably be called back with another offer. If they continue haggling, don't budge (much) from your initial offer. You will need to concede a little bit, though, to allow the vendor to walk away from the transaction with 'face' (self-respect).
7. Keep things lightA happy vendor is a generous vendor. Crack jokes with the shopkeeper and never get aggressive. This is especially true in Asian countries where aggression is an ugly trait in business and causes the vendor to lose face.
8. Don't renegOnce you've agreed on a price, never walk away from a vendor. It is considered the height of bad manners to reneg on a mutually agreed upon price. So don't start bargaining until you're sure you want to purchase something.
Good luck, and happy haggling!
Got some more tips on how to haggle your way to financial bliss? Think I've got something wrong? Post a comment in the space below and let the world know what you think.