Now is the time for a bargain bonanza

Retail Sales

We are reaching the tail end of the January sales, and for the dedicated bargain-hunter, this is when it starts to get exciting. Poundland generated a flurry of excitement among deal-hunters this week, by selling off the last of its Christmassy items for just 5p each. But you don't need to go to Poundland for an astonishing saving.

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Online, the sales are no longer front page news on every store's site, but if you scroll down to the last of the clearance sections for the 'final reductions', the savings are impressive. There's plenty on sale at more than 60% off - and even some items with 80% off.

Just think how excited we all got at this kind of saving when it was Black Friday. This week you can get better offers than Black Friday, and nobody is shouting about it.

Ten of the best:

House of Fraser - up to 60% off
NotOnTheHighStreet - up to 65% off
Debenhams - up to 70% off
Laura Ashley - up to 70% off
Boden - up to 70% off
Phase Eight - up to 70% off
ASOS - up to 70% off
John Lewis - up to 80% off
Topshop - up to 80% off
Joules - up to 80% off

Of course, the usual sales rules apply. The biggest discounts tend to be on the items that have sold particularly poorly. This may be because the price was just too high at the outset, but it may be because the fit isn't good, or the colour isn't flattering, so think through any purchase carefully.

You are also likely to find far more in the sale if you are bigger or smaller than average - and if people your size don't tend to buy a particular style. If you are an average size, you may come away empty handed.

The rules in store

In store, the availability issues are even more pronounced, but the flip side is that you may have more bargaining power. By this point, the sale items will have been browsed for quite some time, so if you find marks on an item (which will wash or polish out), you can ask for an even bigger discount.

Even if the item is in perfect condition, don't forget that if nobody buys the item in the next few days, then they will have all the bother of packing it away, so they have an added incentive to sell whatever they can. It's not going to hurt to ask for a discount anyway.

The longer you leave it, the better your bargaining power will be, but the smaller the selection of items on offer. There's also a real risk that the sales will come to a halt. Most will be in their final throes right now, so don't assume you can wait and go shopping at the end of the week. This bargain bonanza won't last forever.

Save money on shopping
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Save money on shopping

This takes time, but once you know the cost of a phone call, putting the dryer on, or a bag of potatoes, it enables you to judge far better how much you can afford to consume.

Once you know the base price, you are in a position to keep your eyes open for a better offer. If you see a discount you can judge for yourself whether it actually constitutes a bargain. For bigger things like utilities it enables you to do a proper price comparison and see if you can cut your bills.

Don't just assume that the premium range is better, try the every-day brand, or even the basic version and see if you spot the difference. Likewise, consider trading down your supermarket from one of the big players to local markets or discounters like Aldi.

If you plan what you buy to match what you actually cook and eat then not only will you be able to budget far more effectively, but you'll also waste much less and find your money goes further without you having to try.

If you can't think of a way to get your meat for less, consider a vegetarian day once a week. If you can't find petrol any cheaper, then work on making your driving as efficient as possible. The more you can think of clever alternatives the less you will have to make painful cuts to make ends meet.

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