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How to find a bargain in the January sales

The Christmas shopping frenzy is over for another year but the chaos of the sales is in full swing. If you’re planning on hitting the high street then here are some tips for protecting your pocket.

Start early

They shouldn’t call them January sales any more; they start much earlier than that. Many online retailers begin the sales as soon as their Christmas Day delivery deadline has been reached, so you can start browsing bargains as early as Christmas Eve.

If there’s a specific item you want then buy it early. If you wait until the new year, you might find you’ve missed the chance. Having said that, don’t feel rushed into a purchase, you need to be sure it’s right for you.

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Ignore the discount, look at the price

Sales discounts really warp my perception of a good deal. If there’s 80% knocked off, I find it quite hard to evaluate the actual value – I just see the potential saving.

I don’t think I’m alone. If this sounds like you then make a real effort to look at whether you can afford the price, rather than getting carried away by the discount.

Don’t forget to compare

Even if you’re getting a decent discount, don’t assume that’s the best saving you can make. It’s still worth comparing prices online to see if you can get a better deal.

Price comparison websites like Kelkoo, PriceRunner and can save you time as well as money.

After all, money off is good, but even more money off is great.

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Write a list

Aimlessly browsing the sales can mean you spend money on things you don’t really need. Before my penny pinching days, I was particularly dreadful at this. I have tops I’ve never worn but bought because they were such good value.

Before you start shopping, make a list of things you actually want or need. That way you won’t get suckered into purchases you don’t really want.

Consider haggling ‘IRL’

There are plenty of benefits to shopping online but it does mean you can’t haggle. Even if you can’t face asking for a discount the rest of the year (check out my attempts), many retailers are more flexible during their sales.

So, consider putting down your mouse and visiting the high street In Real Life. You might save even more.

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Plan for next Christmas

One in 20 shoppers begin their Christmas shopping 12 months ahead of the big day, meaning they buy some of their presents in the January sales.

While this might not work for kids’ presents – children quite often want the latest trend – it can be a great way to buy cheaper gifts.

Don’t leave yourself short

If your budget is tight then don’t be tempted to bash the plastic too hard in the sales. We’re a funny species; the fear of missing a great deal can make people very irrational.

Think seriously about what you can afford to spend and don’t go over. It might sound obvious, but set yourself a realistic spending limit in advance.

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Your rights

If you buy something in a sale, you still have the same rights as if you’d bought it before the sale began. If it is faulty, unsatisfactory or doesn’t fit the description given when you ordered it, then you can ask for a refund, replacement or repair.

However, some retailers may not allow customers to return purchases because they’ve changed their minds. Their returns policy is up to them and may be stricter for sales items.

The only time your rights are reduced is if you buy something that’s known to be faulty. For example, a top might be marked down because it’s missing a button. If you’re told about this when you buy it then you can’t return it on those grounds – although you could still ask for a refund if something else went wrong with your purchase.

When you need to return a faulty item, take it to the retailer and not the manufacturer. As the seller, it has a duty to resolve your issue, so don’t be fobbed off.

If you’re shopping online, you have even more rights. You get a seven day ‘cooling off’ time, meaning you can return or cancel your order without giving a reason. Unfortunately, that’s not the case if the item has been custom-made.

What are your tips for shopping in the January sales? What’s the best bargain you’ve ever found? Share your advice and experiences in the comments below.