How to Shop Every Market Like a Pro

By Gigi Guerra, Tuesday, Aug 18, 2009, 12:00 AM

Establish a goal
Is getting first crack at the merchandise or paying the lowest price your priority? If you're aiming for both, hit the market when it opens and take stock of what you want; then return a couple of hours before closing, when sellers are most willing to barter.

Bring your singles
A healthy stash of small bills is essential—it provides instant bargaining leverage ("Oh, I don't have a twenty, but here's a ten and a few ones"). Split the bills between two wallets, keeping one hidden so you always appear to be running out of cash.

Buy in bulk
Another surefire cost-cutting tactic is to snap up multiple objects from one person—the more you buy, the better your chances of saving. Respectfully hem and haw over each item; vendors can quickly provide reassurance by lowering the price.

Decide on delivery
Finally, make sure you have a solid plan to get all of your purchases home. Airlines have varying size and weight limitations, so keep a list of shipping companies handy. Internationally, we recommend DHL for timeliness and reliability (dhl.com).