How to shop smart in the January sales

Your finances are going to feel pretty stretched after forking out for all the festivities over Christmas, yet it’s all-too-easy to get swayed to splash out all over again in the New Year sales. Shopping at this time of year can make good financial sense, with prices being slashed left, right and centre.

But you do need to go to the sales with a level head – and shop sensibly when you get there – to be sure of bagging a bargain. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the January Sales without leaving a huge dent in your wallet afterwards.

Plan ahead
Before braving the crowds, sit down and draw up a list. That way you can stay focussed on getting a good deal on the things you actually need, rather than getting overwhelmed by too much choice. Spend a bit of time researching the items you want to buy in advance, both in your favourite shops and online.

This can help you pay the right price once the sales have started. Also look out for vouchers that you can print and use in-store, and take these with you when you go shopping, along with your list.

Set a budget

Work out how much you can afford to spend in total, and try not to get carried away once you’re out and about, as you could easily lose track of how much you’re spending. Consider leaving your cards at home and only taking cash with you, as it can be harder to impulse-buy with cash. Add up your spending as you go along to ensure you don’t end up exceeding the spending limit you set at the start.

Remember that sales don’t always equate to bargains
Given that every cut-price item can seem like a bargain, it’s important to ask yourself whether the deal really is as is good as it looks, and whether a “two-for-one” offer is really saving you money. Have a good think about whether the amount of the reduction is actually a bargain – and perhaps more importantly, whether it’s a bargain if you really don’t need it?

Don’t rush into a purchase
If you’re not sure about an item of clothing or gadget you’re about to purchase, give yourself a few moments to think before taking it to the till. This will give you chance to work out if you’re making a good buy, or whether you’re about to waste money.

Be prepared to haggle
When you find something you do want to buy, don’t forget to haggle. Shopping in the sales is the perfect time to test your negotiation skills. This can be especially true if a product has a flaw – or if it’s been on display and faded a little – as you can use these imperfections to help you get the price down.

Shop online
If you can’t face the hoards on the high street, check out the online sales too. This can not only reduce your stress levels, but can also help you stick to your budget, as you’re less likely to impulse buy.

Check the returns policy
Before making any purchase, take a moment to read the terms and conditions, and to check the quality, warranty and return policies. Once you’ve walked away from the till, stash receipts carefully in your wallet. That way, if something you’ve bought isn’t right, you can return it without losing any money.

Note, however, that some shops will only offer credit on sale items, while others don’t allow returns at all on reduced stock – so make sure you find this out before you buy.

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